Åsa Sonjasdotter

Peace with the Earth. Tracing Agricultural Memory – Refiguring Practice. 2017- 2020

Dates: 03 Apr - 13 Jun

Show Time: Updated schedule to be confirmed

 

The vast majority of the world’s farms are small or very small. Farms smaller than 2 hectares account for 84 percent of all farms and control only 12 percent of all agricultural land.
The Food and Agriculture Organization. fao.org/family-farming/background/en/2020.

Anyone who aims to understand why viruses are becoming more dangerous must investigate the industrial model of agriculture.
Rob Wallace. Big Farms Make Big Flu: Dispatches on influenza, Agribusiness, and the Nature of Science. NUY Press, 2016.

Initiated by visual artist, researcher and amateur plant breeder Åsa Sonjasdotter, in collaboration with practitioners involved in multispecies cultivation, Peace with the Earth revisits histories of agriculture. A long-term enquiry, the project investigates soil, habitat and dwelling histories, in order to challenge and transform long-established cultural narratives of cultivation and ecological thinking.

The project’s title was borrowed from a call to action written in 1940 by two Swedish suffragettes and peace activists: Elisabeth Tamm (1880–1958, an organic farmer one of the first women in parliament) and Elin Wägner (1882-1949, a writer on matters of ecology, suffrage and peace). Their proposal was based on: ‘…a long, hands-on experience of old as well as new agricultural methods and the effect they have on the soil, the animals and on the humans.’[1] Their conclusion was as simple as it was challenging, suggesting that humankind must make peace with Earth, not (only) on Earth. In their view, the reconsideration of humankind’s relation to the land and soil is a prerequisite to solving problems of peacekeeping, maintenance of health and soil, as well as demographic and educational challenges. Eighty years on, their call is alarmingly timely and powerful. Tamm and Wägner not only spotted problems that are still acute, but also proposed solutions for how to reconsider a sustainable relation to soil and the land.
Following in their footsteps, Sonjasdotter investigates the overlooked knowledge and role of smallholder farmers and kitchen-gardeners, which were so often women and children. She points to the potential of cracks, reading between the lines of dominant narratives.

Peace with the Earth has developed as an exhibition at Project Arts Centre between 3 April and 13 June 2020 and planned to include cultivation, public and workshop programming at various sites in Dublin (some in collaboration with NCAD Gareth Kennedy) and as well as a journal publication co-produced and published by Archive Books, Berlin who also are the publishers of the publication series Peace with the Earth.

Peace with the Earth is supported and hosted by various institutions and organisations including: the Baltic Art Centre, Visby; the Museum of Gotland and The Valand Academy, University of Gothenburg in Sweden; The Irish Seed Savers Association, Scarriff; The Céide Fields, Ballycastle; The National Museum of Country Life, Turlough; The UCD School of Archaeology, Dublin; National College of Art and Design (NCAD), Dublin; An Taisce, the National Trust for Ireland; Environmental Education Unit (Green Flag Award Scheme); Goldsmiths University of London, UK and Archive, Berlin, Germany.

The upcoming exhibition at Project Arts Centre, informed by a research residency in summer 2018, is clustered around habitat systems and time perspectives: on broadleaf forests and deeper time; on kale and nurturing multispecies’ relations, polyrhythms and dung heaps; on living and dying well; and on soil time. Various research samples will be presented, including: organic matter produced from forests (in relation to deeper time space matter); waste from the global trade of goods (in relation to linear economy and narrative of growth); and providing excellent food for compost worms (in relation to soil time and polyrhythms).

In collaboration with Archive Books, the recent issue of Archive journal presents Sonjasdotter’s long-term project that investigates soil, habitat and dwelling histories in order to challenge and transform long-established cultural narratives of farming and gardening. Located in the context of Ireland, the project enquires into small scale and non-extractive cultivation methods.

ARCHIVE JOURNAL — ISSUE N°9 March – April 2020 is produced by Archive Books and Project Arts Centre, Dublin to accompany the exhibition and cultivation project Peace with the Earth – Tracing Agricultural Memory, Refiguring Practice. 2017 – 2020

Editors: Chiara Figone, Lívia Páldi and Åsa Sonjasdotter
Design: Julie Högner / Archive Appendix Berlin

 

BIO

Åsa Sonjasdotter is a visual artist from Sweden, currently living between Germany and Sweden. For many years, she has been researching the complex relationships among species and organisms that occur within agriculture, with a focus on the dynamic capacity of plants to adapt to local cultivation conditions and humans’ aesthetic and nutritional requirements. This plant-capacity is maintained through the diversity that has emerged as a result of seed exchange, cultivation and breeding over a vast period of time. This diversity is also a memory of the socialisation that agriculture enables, taking place in farm fields and gardens. In this way, it is also possible to think of cultivars as archives of co-species’ knowledge and stories. Having grown up in an area where potatoes have provided the basic sustenance for people for a long period of time, Sonjasdotter has worked in different settings with stories on and by potatoes – a plant that has a special role in modern colonial and industrial history. She has traced the potentially subversive (his)stories of outlawed varieties that today are forbidden or marginalised for professional farming, as they are genetically too lively and diverse to fit the EU criteria, defined by the politics of agribusiness.

Åsa has been a visiting researcher in The Art of Heritage – an Artistic Research Residency at the Gotland Museum, organised by the Baltic Art Centre, both institutions based in Visby, Sweden. She has been artistic co-curator of the research and exhibition project Licht Luft Scheiße [Light Air Shit], Perspectives on Ecology and Modernity produced by the Botanic Garden and Botanical Museum at the Freie Universität Berlin, the Martin-Elsaesser-Stiftung, Nachbarschaftsakademie/ The Neighbourhood Academy in Prinzessinnengarten Kreuzberg, Berlin and the neue Gesellschaft für bildende Kunst (nGbK). The two research projects deal with historical references and points of departure for reflecting on alternative ways of living in the globalised world. In light of the on-going destruction of Planet Earth there is a need to fundamentally rethink our relationship to the biosphere and all non-human beings.

Åsa is the founding member of The Neighbourhood Academy in Berlin’s Prinzessinengarten (established in 2015) which invites activists, artists, architects, researchers and representatives of initiatives from the local and global neighbourhood to work on questions of socio-ecological transformations from below, land-politics and practices of communing through methods of collective learning.
Prinzessinnengarten Kreuzberg is a garden for collective social, economic and environmental development and re/learning. After ten years in existence, the collective is developing the garden into a self-organised learning centre for long-term, life-cycle solutions between the urban and rural realm under the slogan ‘Prinzessinnengarten Kreuzberg für die nächsten 99 Jahre als Gemeingut sichern!”[‘Prinzessinnengarten Kreuzberg keeps the site as a commons for the next 99 years!’]

[1] Elisabeth Tamm, Elin Wägner, Fred med jorden, Stockholm, Bonniers, 1940. The text is translated to Engilsh by Katarina Trodden. It will be edited by Åsa Sonjasdotter and published by Archive Books, Berlin later this year.

Image: Cabbage Garden in Ballyferriter, county Kerry, c. 1925. Photograph by Carl Wilhelm von Sydow.
Image reproduced with kind permission from the National Folklore Collection, University College Dublin.

 

Links:

http://asasonjasdotter.net/

http://www.balticartcenter.com/events/peace-with-the-earth/

http://www.balticartcenter.com/projects/sonjasdotter2018_2/

https://nachbarschaftsakademie.org/licht-luft-scheisse/

https://prinzessinnengarten-kreuzberg.net/

https://www.potatoperspective.org/

http://www.balticartcenter.com/projects/future_island-2-towards-slite-international-2/

 

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