Soil Culture Residencies

Lisa Hirmer / DodoLab

at Peninsula Arts, Plymouth University

‘Peak Peat’

Lisa Hirmer is a multi-disciplinary artist based in Guelph, Canada. Her work is positioned in the overlap of visual arts, design, criticism, social practice and experimental forms of research. She often works under the pseudonym DodoLab, an experimental creative practice focused on exploring contemporary issues in relation to public beliefs about them.

Lisa Hirmer, working as DodoLab, was selected for the residency at Peninsula Arts and was invited to engage with Dr. Rob Parkinson, Associate Professor in Soil Sciences, and his colleagues on their research into peat. The residency activated the gallery as an informal learning space, encouraging student and visitor engagement and participation, developing knowledge of peat in the context of the South West moorlands. By situating the residency in the gallery the processes of research and artistic production were also made public.

Working with Dr. Parkinson and his colleagues in the Geography and Biological Sciences departments, Lisa learnt about the ecology of peat, its critical role in reducing atmospheric carbon and the processes that cause stored carbon to be released. As well as speaking to academics, Lisa also visited peatlands at Fox Tor Mires on Dartmoor and Shapwick Heath in the Avalon Marshes of the Somerset Levels and connected with members of the South West England Soils Discussion Group, a regional branch of the British Society of Soil Science.

In order to engage the audience, Lisa designed a survey to function as a conversation and thinking tool, and worked with visitors to the gallery to explore how we measure the value of carbon sinks, which have significant long-term global benefits and yet are difficult to register or visualize in our everyday lives. Ideas from both areas of exploration were posted up in a gallery installation that grew over the course of the residency.

The resulting work presented here in this exhibition, ‘Peak Peat’, is a series of bulletin boards with postings that capture the wealth of ideas surrounding peat as a carbon sink gathered during her residency from both the researchers and the public, a hardback book containing the completed surveys from the residency as well as blank surveys that visitors are able to complete.


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