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By the Code of Soil

What if you could see and hear the soil speak?

By the Code of Soil is an online networked digital artwork by Fault Lines artist Kasia Molga and sound artist Scanner. Developed as part of the GROW Observatory, By the Code of Soil turns soil data into digital art that appears on participants’ computers whenever land-mapping satellite Sentinel-1 passes overhead.

Artists: Kasia Molga, Scanner
Date: Oct 2018 – Oct 2019
Medium: Data art
Related: Building a Citizens’ Observatory, Fault Lines

Human survival relies on soil health— yet, for many, this vital resource is ‘invisible’. How can art help us reflect on the importance of invisible systems, such as soil ecosystems, to our lives?

In By the Code of Soil – a new artwork developed as part of the GROW Observatory – Fault Lines artist Kasia Molga and sound artist Scanner draw attention to the ‘invisible network’ quietly working away beneath our feet.

The artwork draws on soil data from soil moisture sensors installed in the nine GROW Places to generate unique, audio-visual manifestations, created by Kasia and Robin. To experience the artwork, participants must join the #codeofsoil network by installing a bespoke By the Code of Soil app on their computers.

“By the Code of Soil is about handing over power to the land – to soil – and depicting it as a first and foremost living organism; not as a resource whose capacity must be maximized for our own benefits. Soil with all its myriad of processes happening there all the time is like a matrix of the computer – an invisible force and organisational structure binding all components of the biosphere together. In times of uncertainties and transitions we need to pay attention to that what is invisible, possibly more than to what is in front of us.This invisible, working quietly in the background, often has much more significance to what is happening and how it will impact the world as we know in the near future.”

— Kasia Molga, Artist

As well as being connected to the earth through soil sensors installed as part of the GROW Observatory, By the Code of Soil is also connected to the European Space Agency’s flagship satellite, Sentinel-1A, which passes overhead twice a day. As it passes, Sentinel-1A maps the land and sea, capturing things like forestry, agriculture and weather conditions to support climate prediction modelling. Once part of the #codeofsoil network, participants can experience By the Code of Soil at the precise time Sentinel-1A passes above their head and triggers the artwork to appear on their computer screen. As it’s based on data that’s constantly being generated, the artwork is different each time, creating a sense of surprise and intrigue.

By the Code of Soil is about the unexpected, connecting with invisible processes and systems, and the fundamental importance of soil to our lives.Through these spontaneous interruptions into daily life, By the Code of Soil invites us to acknowledge and reflect on our relationship with the soil —  this vital resource that underpins our survival but so often goes unnoticed.

“In my work, I’m drawn to projects that focus on animating and bringing to life many of the invisible aspects of our world. An understanding of soil is crucial to our survival yet remains frequently forgotten. Through our work I hope that it illuminates, educates and celebrates the very ground beneath our feet.”

— Scanner, Sound Artist

Launched on World Soil Day 2018, By the Code of Soil runs until October 2019, when the GROW Observatory project draws to a close.

Created by Kasia Molga, Scanner and GROW Observatory, and produced by FutureEverything, the work was developed as part of VERTIGO STARTS. This project has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No. 690199

With thanks to Dan Hett and Erik Overmeier.

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