HUMUS.Sapiens-Field Notes

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Field_Notes - Ecolology of Senses | Kilpisjärvi, September 2018

‘Observing Artists in the Field: Ecologies of Senses’, Hannah Star Rogers & Bilge Hasdemir

HUMUS.Sapiens - Unveiling Hidden Micro Ecologies

HUMUS-Group on PlanetEarth web.jpg

(clockwise) Toru (Ryu) Oyama, Antti Salminen, Teemu Lehmusruusu, Aravin Chakravarthi, Heather Davis, Bilge Hasdemir (in background), hosted by Marc Dusseiller

Let’s go underground! Within HUMUS sapiens we are interested to explore approaches to sense the hidden and dark places which lie below our feet. The complex networks of microscopic organisms that co-exist with us in the dark soils underneath the plant cover are fundamental in sustaining life for the creatures above ground, as well for the whole planet’s atmosphere.

The aim of the group is to create a shared sensitivity of soil and the processes in soils. While the landscape around Kilpisjärvi might look monotonous from afar, getting more closer to it and dig into the ground itself might unveil another level of diversity and myriads of activities, insensible to us humans, on an ultra micro-localized scale. How do this microscopic ecosystem below the ground reveal themselves on the macro-landscape? What are the processes which form and inform the soil ? How can we formulate a human / soil relationship ?

HUMUS sapiens runs in DIWO (do-it-with-other) mode, meaning to involve the group dynamic and shared skill sets in shaping these explorations, as well as including our newly found microbial partners into our investigations. HUMUS.Sapiens builds upon recent soil explorations within the HACKTERIA network. It will make use of a variety of open source tools to explore the world below us including self-made microscopes, basic electronic sensors, mobile field-laboratories and performative scientific instruments.

Soil Time

What is soil time? What is the time of soil?

Soil is history. It must always contain a history, composed of the processes of metabolization, decomposition. In Kilpisjärvi, the times of the growth of soil are slowed, the cold seeping into the ground; organisms conserve, extend cautiously. As we dig into the earth, we have a sense of going back in time, fingers, faces, shovels, tongues, bores, nostrils all extending through untold stories and layers and politics that reach back in these contested territories. The soils of Kilpisjärvi slowly become ingested, incorporated into our bodies. The minerals and rocks and bacteria and organisms and all their histories re-corporealized as we drink and eat and breath in this land, this land where we are visitors, this land with its histories of colonialism. Multiple invisible, unknown and unknowable times and histories moving through our lungs and digestive tracts.

There is a heterogeneity to the layers of soil. Piles of earth transform the landscape into a series of bumps, where soils begin to develop on top of rocks, where the land, at so many scales, from the micro to the meso to the macro resembles and repeats the patterns of lichens. These piles defy the clear logics and linearity that are so bound to the Euro-Western conception of time. As the soil piles, some pieces fall off, reversing a clear timeline. Nematodes, cryptozoa, bacteria move up and down through the layers, transporting these bits of history with them, mixing and piling and breaking down.

Antti Salminen and Tere Vadén have developed the concept of humism, as fields of experience or biotopes. Emerging from the soil, humism is grounded in particular places, particular histories, particular processes of metabolization. It is the decomposition of the human, to exist with and of others, as one of many. Humism is an invitation to be with the soil, to recenter elsewhere, beyond and aside from the histories of humanism and posthumanism. In humism, we enter into new times.

Heather Davis, Kilpisjärvi September 2018


Day 0: Arrival

Not much happened. travelling. tired. sleeping.

Arrived at the station.

Introductions and first explorations

50 words for soil

Basic idea to use more harsh letters and sound. Digging sounds, ground, Erde, then it decomposes, gets soft and metamorphoses, patterns emerge, layers of sounds and feelings.

Download 50 Words for Soil, by Antti Salminen, Kilpisjärvi September 2018

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File:50 Words for Soil_overPrinted_MoniNuber.pdf

To the Origins of Life on Land (aka "the beach in Norway")

something to read...

Separation, accumulation and sharing

During our third day we individually and collectively self-organized into our found interests, separated and followed various explorations, leading up to the group activity in the evening.

Flying high

Drone footage

Building a CryptoTrap

Preparing Tasting session. Koji, berries, kimchi, riceballs and soil

Hosting the EOS group: Humism Incubator - Humus Kitchen - Soil Sphere ONE

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Rejoining and Learning


DIWO lab work


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Going to Borders

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Maybe it was mostly a nice hike...

Droning the herds

Finding Toru

Kota Moment

Other experiments

Soil Chromatographs done in Stuttgart

Continuing with HUMUS.Sapiens on TOUR we had the opportunity to analyse our sample from the FieldSite 1 near Saana path using a method of Circular Chromatography.

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DIY microscope for plastics, narcists and soils

Building Traps

See more about OpenTrap and The Art of Hunting.


Cryptozoa is the collective name for small animals who live in darkness and under conditions of high relative humidity, as in the wet soil underneath rocks, decomposing tree bark etc..

Nematode Traps

Secret Museum at Kilpisjärvi Biological Station


Marc Dusseiller (CH)

Marc Dusseiller (CH) is a transdisciplinary scholar, lecturer for micro- and nanotechnology, cultural facilitator and artist. He works in an integral way to combine science, art and education. He performs DIY (do-it-yourself) workshops in lo-fi electronics, hardware hacking, microscopy, music and robotics. He also loves coconuts.


Toru (Ryu) Oyama (JPN)

Toru (Ryu) Oyama (JPN) is born in Japan, lives and works in Japan, Germany and Korea. As an artist and a chemical pharmacist, the art works of Ryu Oyama reflect his engagement in biology, chemistry, fields he ventured into while pursuing his degree in pharmacy at university Japan. He has since been developing artworks that draw from his knowledge of biological chemistry and combined visual art. Since 2007 Oyama has studied at Staatliche Akademie der Bildende Kuenste Karlsruhe and worked in Germany. In 2014 and 2015, he showed projects in a two-part exhibition Adaptation and Blind Spot, at the Karlsruher Institut für Technologie (KIT) Campus Nord. This North Campus is also known as the Karlsruhe Nuclear Research Centre (KfK), and the Forschungsreaktor 2 (FR2)

Aravin Chakravarthi (IN/SWE)

Aravin Chakravarthi (SWE) is a sensory ecologist who has recently began exploring the possibilities of the intersection of Art and Science. One of his primary interest is to understand the artistic research methods and to explore the potential of artistic endeavours in communicating science more effectively. He has a PhD in Functional Zoology from Lund University. In his doctoral project, he compared spatial vision of tropical and temperate bee species to explore in what detail bees perceive their surroundings when foraging. One of his primary findings is that spatial resolution degrades due to relative motion of the bees, however motion improves contrast sensitivity. Before he started his PhD, he was at the National Centre for Biological Sciences, India as a junior research fellow, where he studied sensory basis of nocturnal hawk moth migration. He has conducted field work to record the patterns of plant phenology, and larval abundance, and enumerated the diversity of hawk moths using light traps. He has also conducted a series of oviposition experiments to understand the sensory basis of hawk-moth’s host plant tracking. During his masters, he studied circadian regulation of learning in honeybees. He has also studied age and sex related changes in the photo-tactic behaviour of ants. Currently he is looking for a postdoctoral position.

Heather Davis (USA)

Heather Davis (USA) is an assistant professor of Culture and Media at the New School. Her current book project, Plastic: The Afterlife of Oil, examines the constitutive character of plastic in our contemporary world, it’s complicated inheritances, and its links to petrocapitalism. She has written widely for art and academic publications on questions of contemporary art, politics and ecology. She is the co-editor of Art in the Anthropocene: Encounters Among Aesthetics, Politics, Environments and Epistemologies (Open Humanities Press, 2015) and editor of Desire Change: Contemporary Feminist Art in Canada (MAWA and McGill Queen’s UP, 2017)

Antti Salminen (FIN)

Antti Salminen (FIN) (b. 1983) is a writer, researcher, editor and adjunct professor at University of Tampere. His works include Energy and Experience (2013/2015, /w Tere Vadén), Kokeellisuudesta (On Experimentalism, 2015), Elo ja anergia (Life and Anergy, 2018, /w Tere Vadén), the triple award winning experimental novel Lomonosov Engine (2014) and its stand-alone sequel Mir (2018). In his fiction, he employs a wide range of experimental poetics, drawing from traditions of fragmentary prose. His research fuses energy studies with posthuman perspectives, artistic and political experimental traditions and creative writing. During the past years, he has specialised in post-fossil theory, contemporary experimentalism(s) and environmental philosophy. Since 2008, he has worked as the editor-in-chief and editor of the leading Finnish philosophical journal Niin & Näin while teaching academically in the aforementioned fields.

Teemu Lehmusruusu (FIN)

Teemu Lehmusruusu (FIN) is a media and installation artist working currently on a just beginning new project Trophic Verses –Säkeitä ravintoketjulta, a four-year collaborative project on the topic of soil life. The project is produced by his Telling Tree art+rsrch company, and carried out in collaboration with Ilmatieteenlaitos and BSAG, Baltic Sea Action Group. In addition to his own artistic practice the project invites artists from different fields to explore the ecosystem of soil from different artistic perspectives, for example music, poetry, bio art and sculpture. Interaction with scientists is encouraged and supported. In Autumn 2018 he is also starting doctoral studies in Aalto ARTS contemporary art programme. His next published art works will be a commissioned work for EMMA museums collections in November 2018, and a temporary public art work in Helsinki in August 2019.

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