By Kasia Molga and Scanner as a part of GROW Observatory
You can experience an audiovisual sequence from the By the Code of Soil data-driven artwork on this webpage, or or to fully participate in the artwork, download the app to your personal computer (you will need to give permission for the app to be installed and run):
By the Code of Soil entails an application for personal computers which creates an artistic interpretation of soil moisture, temperature and light data from the cluster of GROW sensors closest to you. Configurations of shapes and sounds emerge from audiovisual textures and frequencies to create a data portrait of soil properties. This artwork appears unannounced on your computer each time the orbiting Sentinel-1A satellite passes overhead – approximately twice every 24 hours but never at the same time of the day.
GROW has commissioned Molga and Rimbaud to open a new perspective on GROW data, and illuminate and reframe the concept of a citizens' observatory. Molga and Rimbaud are also participating in an artist residency in GROW, which is part of VERTIGO, a project of EC STARTS (Science, Technology, and the ARTS).
The soil will manifest itself to you when it is ready… The networked artwork begins when a threshold of downloads has been reached.
"Soil is a vital element of our biosphere - the life-building entity, the recycling mechanism, the fertile ground for our food, the geopolitical territory and the land. Soil is fundamental just like air and water, but is absent from conversations about environmental conditions, unlike pollutants in air or the quality of water."
"In my work, I'm drawn towards 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."
"Art can bring curiosity and imagination to a project like GROW. We hope this can inspire new discoveries."
This project has received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No. 690199
Phase 1: After growing its network all through the winter, on 21 March 2019 (spring equinox), By the Code of Soil, the artwork will emerge across the network - appearing on everyone's computers at the same time! Once you download the application - and join the #codeofsoil network - the application window will update you of how many people are in the network
Phase 2: Until October 2019, By the Code of Soil will manifest on your screen whenever the Sentinel 1 satellite is close to the geolocation of your computer..
Once you have downloaded By the Code of Soil, you can track the movement of the satellite in the application window.
Connecting the soil with the sky Twice a day, every day, the European Space Agency’s flagship satellite, Sentinel-1, passes over your head. Across Europe, thousands of GROW Observatory soil sensors have been deployed by citizens to improve the accuracy of observations from space.
Artists Kasia Molga and Scanner have worked with the GROW Observatory to represent the connection between soil and space in artistic form. By the Code of Soil is grown from soil moisture data and presented to you whenever Sentinel 1, passes over your location.
The uniquely generated digital artwork draws on data from soil moisture sensors installed in the nine GROW Places. GROW’s Changing Climate mission is helping satellite science develop more accurate climate models, weather maps and predictions.
Excerpts from an article by Kasia Molga, lead artist behind By the Code of Soil.
Soil is a vital element of our biosphere – the life-building entity, the recycling mechanism, the fertile ground for our food, the geopolitical territory and the land. Soil is as fundamental as air and water, but is absent from conversations about environmental conditions, unlike pollutants in air or the quality of water.
Technological advances such as sensors, satellite imagery, machine learning and networked devices can help scientists and farmers to monitor soil conditions on micro and macro scales; and help in understanding how the condition of soil can change - vital for speculations on possible future scenarios.
As an artist and designer who probes emerging technology in an environmental context, I have been working with the GROW Observatory, and the VERTIGO STARTS programme on artistic projects dealing with soil condition, soil moisture data and growers’ farming practices.
By the Code of Soil is about handing power over 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. It is inspired by Bruno Latour’s idea of being ‘terrestrial’, which insists that while current political trends let us down in addressing environmental transition, we must start thinking about the material nature of soil - upon which nine or ten billion of us will be living in the future.
By the Code of Soil also comments on the role of IoT and the billions of networked sensors, built with rare Earth elements. These devices provide a constant flow of data and information about environmental conditions, depending on an intricate system of cyber security and faith in impartiality and purity of data.
However, not only do they fail to engage most of us in considering different ways of living, but they can also be hacked relatively easily (as the Mirai botnet has demonstrated); data and its transmission routes can be manipulated by algorithms with consequences beyond human control.
I wrote a speculative story at the start of my thinking on this project; here is an excerpt…
It is 2050 - we have a ballooning population in Europe of 1.5 bln people, long droughts and heatwaves. Food shortages must be avoided. Soil is now the most precious element of our times.
Around 30 years ago, roughly 10,000 soil moisture sensors were placed in the soils of Europe by growers. Now, in 2050, when so much soil has been depleted, sensors are everywhere, tirelessly monitoring soil conditions and transmitting data to the so called ‘main system’. This system is decentralized, perhaps using blockchain, so each result, each data reading and interpretation is recorded and legitimized, and can never be faked.
It all started rather innocently. The AI software interpreting soil moisture data had a glitch of some sort, and suddenly part of it was distributed over the network to all networked devices – our personal computers, corporate databases and servers. ‘The AI became OI’ – was the saying that took hold among people; OI being Organic Intelligence.
And everyday, at a certain time, all the networked devices stopped most of their processes and tuned in to the data coming from soil sensors - like a ritual of some sort. We could all hear the “song of the soil” – a reminder that we cannot be without the land.
The sound is carried by the speakers of each device, and those of us who are in front of monitors, observe the visualization – dictated by data – of the health of the land.
I love it! Can i see it performed on big HD screens?
If you are owner of an art gallery or art festival - invite us and we will prepare for you immersive stunning HD option. The best way if you get in touch with Future Everything firstname.lastname@example.org to coordinate. If you are a fan - keep eyes on Kasia's, Scanner's, Grow Observatory and Future Everything websites for announcements of possible shows!
I love it! But I am a bit bored - how can I uninstall it?
It is simple - click on the "UNINSTALL" in the window app (under the food recipes), then quit the app and delete it from you Application folder if you are on MAC OS and from wherever you saved if you on PC.
To make sure all is gone, find your "Documents" folder and remove "grow" folder. Empty your trash bin and you are done.
I missed my daily soil show - where can I see what I missed?
There is an Instagram for it, where we will post various excerpts.
Interested in building better soil, helping science with vital environmental monitoring, or just interested in sustainable food practices?