Our primitive ancestors knew the value of soil and respected the soil.
Yet, as the story of humanity has left its footprints upon history, soil has been trampled underfoot, becoming a mere footnote in the long march when it is fact its very foundation.
Here are the facts on the ground: We may not be made of the soil, but soil has made us.
It is safe to say that we would not be standing (or sitting or lying or crouching) here today without soil; we would be still be some type of fish, as without soil there is no shore upon which our super-primitive ancestors (i.e. those even more primitive than our primitive ancestors who knew the value of soil and respected it) could have place a tentative tentacle, fin, antennae, etc. and quickly perished, somehow beginning the great evolutionary process that has resulted in proposals of exactly this kind.
No. Soil has become a dirty word. Your good name has been soiled. Your reputation has been soiled. You’ve soiled your pants, your diapers, your dress, your futon, your rug, the reputations of those previously believed to be virgins, etc.
Even when taken as a signifier (“soil”) of a material object (“[soil]“), “soil” immediately takes us to one of two bad places – either we are worms endlessly burrowing through the soil only to have the soil pass through us (please see T.F. Burns, “The Soil Traveler”) or we bodies that are entombed within the soil (please see “The Obituaries”). In rare cases, we can imagine ourselves as both (please see K.F. von Braunstein’s, “On The Dead Worm Which Eats Through Its Own Corpse”).
Farmers appreciate the soil, but many have bought the farm – driven off their land by foreclosures and the rapaciousness of multinational agribusiness conglomerates, which despite their vast amounts of capital have yet to produce a self-cleaning head of lettuce or a self-dicing tomato. And besides, farmers are not our intended audience – as they are far too busy doing the hard work of farming to frequent the Tate in meaningful numbers.
”Soil Room” is an interactive installation which attempts to start both a discursive and recursive dialogue (ideal mix: 3 parts discursivity for every 2 parts of recursivity, with a bitter lemon rubbed in sweet bitters) on our concepts of the “soil” by boldly challenging visitors to re-envision “soilness” by navigating (in this case, physically navigating) a recontextualization of the soil into a decontextualized environment itself contextualized by its surroundings.
Proposal for Installation – The Basics
The Tate will give over to me a gallery room approximately 100′x100′ with a ceiling height no less than 25 hands or 25 feet (whichever is larger).
I, with the help of a team of experienced landscapers, will cover the entire surface of the room – floor, walls and ceiling – with a 6″ coating of soil.
Visitors will enter the installation via a 50′ long rounded stone chamber resembling the sides of a stone well. The Tate will be responsible for furnishing this entrance, as I do not do stonework.
The installation will be unlit, so visitors can experience the soil in complete darkness.
Prohibition Against the Sale or Rental of or Provision of Illumination Devices Including Torches and Flashlights
The Tate is hereby prohibited from selling, renting or providing its visitors any illumination devices for use in “Soil Room.” However, if visitors choose to hold aloft any lighters or flashlights they are carrying, this is fine, although in theory, if there were no legal matters to consider, those using illumination devices would be eaten by predators.
Maximum Number of Visitors at Any One Time
There will be no limit on the number of persons allowed to enter the exhibit at any one time (Fire codes are for bureaucrats and Cassandras!).
Duration of Installation Exhibit
The exhibit will run for one year, allowing “Soil Room” to experience all four seasons. If the show would naturally end in a winter, but the Groundhog has seen his shadow, the exhibit will be extended another 6 weeks.
Temperature of “Soil Room”
During the summer season the room is to be cooled to 50 degrees Fahrenheit (I’m an American. I don’t do the Celsius thing. I’m sure you can figure it out.) and during the winter season heated to 70 degrees. During the Fall and Spring the temperature will be whatever the midpoint is between 50 degrees Fahrenheit and 70 degrees Fahrenheit (I’m an installation artist. Simple math is beneath me.)
Synergistic Possibilities for Future Exhibitions Based on “Soil Room”
Future Video Installation – “Humans Moving Through Soil”
For a 3-hour period during a random Saturday of each of the four seasons, every visitor entering “Soil Room” will be required to wear a special jumpsuit, along with shoes, a helmet and special gloves (4 fingers mandatory – no mittens!) the effect of which is to cover all surface skin. Video cameras inserted into various places will recorded the motions of visitors wearing their special suits (whether the film will pick up body heat, infrared waves or radiation waves is still TBD). Edited portions of these videos will form a new video installation entitled “Humans Moving Through Soil.” Unedited video will form the 12-hour long “exclusive director’s cut” version.
[Ammendment to the preceding paragraph: I have consulted with several experts and now understand that filming the video in infrared will not require special suits, therefore...no, on second thought, have them wear the suits anyway.]
[Ammendment to the preceding ammendment: Please ignore the preceding ammendment].
Future Found Sculpture Exhibit – “Things Left on the Soil”
At the end of each day, Tate Museum curatorial personnel – with the assistance of janitorial personnel – will curate the room of any objects left by visitors. These will be further curated into an exhibit showcasing items left behind. Vsitors who identify objects lost while in “Soil Room” will have the option of recovering them by paying the ransom.
Synergistic and Crassly Commercial Possibilities
The Tate gift museum is encouraged to exploit all available profitable synergistic product off-shoots as the artist believes this will help to further raise “soil consciousness.” The following are merely examples of the possibilities:
The “Soil Room” Dollhouse – a cube with one open face and the rest of all surfaces covered in soil. Sold in the following sizes: Starter, First Promotion, McMansion, Empty Nest, Empty NestEgg (alternatively titled the “Bernie Did What?”).
Soil – Soil will be sold in the following sizes: Large bucket, Grande Bucket, Tall bucket. Also sold in 20lb., 50lb. and 100lb. bags.
Soil Room T-shirt (standard) – This will be a mass reproduction of a t-shirt worn by the artist as he rolled around in freshly landscaped flower bed.
Soil Room T-shirt (worn by artist) – This will be a t-shirt worn by the artist as he rolled around in freshly landscaped flower bed. Authenticated with artist’s initials hand-cleaned using an instant stain-remover pen.
Ladies and Gentlemen of the jury, I want to start by saying thank you – thank you for your time. I appreciate it tremendously and I will therefore keep my closing statement mercifully short. Two simple words – not guilty. Why? Two simple words and an acronym – the DNA test. Thank you. That’s all your honor.
Artist’s Closing Statement
I really can’t say it any better than what you just heard from my attorney, Mr. Hobson. But, here’s hoping to see you hopping and bopping in “Soil Room” soon!