Soil Culture Residencies

Debra Solomon

at Schumacher College

En necromass: an optimistic, fungal perspective on death and production

Debra Solomon is an Amsterdam based artist and founder of URBANIAHOEVE Social Design Lab for Urban Agriculture. Urbaniahoeve (which translates as ‘the city as our farm’) which has developed food-system infrastructure at several public space locations in the Hague and Amsterdam, transforming the existing landscape architecture, whilst prioritising eco-system health, and implementing in situ topsoil production.

Through an open call selection process Debra was selected to be artist in residence at Schumacher College, where in keeping with the Schumacher ethos the residency was an invitation to look at soil from both a holistic and ecological perspective.

Debra’s practice has involved exploring the role of fungi as transformers of organic materials and as soil builders. Her residency placed particular emphasis on the soil rhizosphere; where plant roots, microbiota and soil fungi interact. During her residency she closely observed soil building in the diverse living locations of the gardens and woods at Schumacher and within the Dartington Estate. She was also able to engage with horticultural experts, including the Head Gardener at Schumacher (Jane Gleason), the Head Gardener at Dartington (Ian Gilbert) and the Forest Garden expert Martin Crawford, in a conversation about the value of soil compared to mainstream agricultural practice.

From this experience she developed a series of screen-prints, presented here, about soil from the perspective of fungi called En necromass: an optimistic, fungal perspective on death and production. The works reference the vast communication and exchange that takes place in around the root zone. Here there is the most life and nutrient production as well as the death and decay of organic matter, as nutritious necromass transforms into soil. The rootball of a recently storm-felled tree, mycelium feeding on a dead leaf, a leaf’s skeleton, and spore prints that appear as ghosts, tell a myco-centric story of materials becoming soil.  The silkscreen prints were produced with the well-known Amsterdam printmaker, Kees Maas.

During her residency Debra also presented an EarthTalk: Merging garden city heritage with a food forest in Amsterdam, which was open to the Dartington community and the general public.


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