Soil Culture Residencies

Marissa Benedict

at the Environment and Sustainability Institute, University of Exeter

‘I was fascinated by the ways in which Dr Yvon-Durocher approaches his work, and the ways in which it overlaps with my artistic processes. In many ways, our work as artists & scientist functions to the same end, but filtered through the unique lenses of our disciplines.’ – Marissa Benedict, September 2014

During her 10-day residency Marissa worked closely with Dr Gabriel Yvon-Durocher, Senior Lecturer in Natural Environment, who has been carrying out studies on the response of soil carbon sequestration to climate change and land use management. Dr Gabriel Yvon-Durocher is part of the team at ESI that have been identifying the best agricultural practices that promote carbon sequestration, improve soil carbon storage and maintain viable yields is fundamental to developing effective strategies to mitigate unmanageable levels of future climate change.

The residency gave Marissa a better understanding of the possibilities and challenges presented by collaborating with a scientist. It also gave her an insight into the ways in which Dr Yvon-Durocher’s research functions at a local level in the real context of the Lynher Dairies, a 250-acre organic dairy farm (and an award winning producer of Cornish Yarg cheese) and on a macro level, contributing to a network of scientist and institutions world-wide who are measuring carbon exchange.

Prior to the residency Marissa had collected soil samples for over a year but working with Dr Yvon-Durocher she was learnt how to analyse these samples both on a molecular level (using a loss-on-ignition process to measure carbon sequestration in soil) and on a global level (observing the data he collects to model and analyse carbon cycles and fluxes). Marissa was given access to the ESI labs, specialist equipment such as a flux tower and equipment in the Geophysics Department for processing soil samples.

Marissa also connected with the Research in Art, Nature and the Environment group at Falmouth University, led by CCANW’s co-director Dr. Daro Montag

The materials collected during her residency and her enhanced understanding of the powerful idea of how soil breathes, how communities of plants and microbes inhale and exhale CO2, will be used to develop a new body of work about soil and the carbon cycle, which will be included in the touring exhibition of the outcomes of the Soil Culture Residencies.

‘Soil is complex. The carbon cycle is complex: it’s one of the most basic life processes, yet we still have so much to learn & understand at a fundamental level about these exchanges function, and how they effect global carbon levels.’ – Marissa Benedict, September 2014


CCANW works in partnership with

The Centre for Contemporary Art & the Natural World (CCANW) is a charity registered in England & Wales Co. No.1167039
Reg. address: The Old Postern, Dartington Hall, Totnes TQ9 6EL, UK
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