Tuesday, 10 July 2018

The Brownfield Research Centre - Brownfield Artist of the Day - Tana West, Soil Chromatography

Brownfield Artist Of the Day #1

In our ongoing series highlighting Artists and works submitted to our Brownfield Research Centre, each day until July 22nd, we will be highlighting the work of 1 artist, starting today with Tana West.

Tana West's practice and research methods are mobile, the process of making work begins with a journey, the route it takes is contingent on what is found and can be transported. Like a modern-day hunter gather in search of materials, she collects and uses estuarine mud, excavated clay, brick and rock fragments to make glazes and clay bodies which are regionally specific. She works with traditional techniques to make objects that connect with social, political and historical contexts. 

The Brownfield Research Centre Submission: Human activities at different timescales are a factor in soil formation, for example be it the gradual layering of material from socio-industrial occupation or from land clearing. This human influence is often seen in the negative frame of erosion, degradation or contamination but soil modification can also lead to enhanced fertility whether it is intentional or an unintended consequence of human activities. Archaeologists in certain weather conditions can see the outlines of buried foundations highlighted by the change in colour of vegetation; the varied soil composition is brought to light. 

The process by which a brownfield site could become more verdant is through remediating the soil: introducing earthworms to help increase the amount of air and water that gets into the soil and break down organic matter. Introducing pioneer species like the Alder tree, the roots of which have nitrogen-fixing nodules which make it an excellent soil remediator. The trees are therefore used to improve soil fertility on former industrial and brownfield sites. They are also used in flood mitigation. 

Soil Chromatography: A photographic technique to examine soil quality using silver nitrate, after development, what is left is a visual colour map of the soil sample: the minerals, microbes and enzymes at work. The brighter and more distinct the chromagraph the healthier the soil sample is. 

West would like to bring to light reclamation and renewal by surveying the soil of planned and unplanned green spaces within the city and investigate the process by which a brownfield site could be rewilded. 


Instagram: @west_adrift

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