We humans find soil more obscure than water. But because we think we own it, we think we know it. Truth is, we might know more about the surface of the moon than what we know about life in the soil or the bottom of the oceans. During 2021 we have explored through different exhibitions and projects, various ways of approaching, understanding and relating to notions of soil. In the spring, the exhibitions where concern about forced migration, traced borders, uprootedness and resettlement. The exhibitions reminded us that without soil there would be no suitable place to put down roots.

Each project in its unique way—spanning from the ruins of the destroyed Gaza international airport to the testimonies of Syrian artists living in exile, to the resettling of the inhabitants of Saakasjärvi forced to move due to a copper mine expansion— pointed at the importance of roots. And roots, those connectors that stabilize the soil, protecting forests against floods and erosion, operate in the same way that a sense of belonging does in humans, becomes the ground structure for the construction of stronger communities and fairer societies. In the summer, the exhibitions pointed toward the urgent need to protect and nurture in order to survive. By now, we all know that nature, which we are not only part of, but fundamentally dependent on, is being destroyed by our permanent plunging of resources, by mining, by fossil fuel investments, deforestation, extensive agroindustry projects and many other unaccounted sources of contamination.

The summer exhibitions provided information about sustainable forestry, awareness about genetically modified seeds, life at the bottom of the seas, interconnectedness among species, ecology and preservation attempts of microorganism of an ancient forest´s soil. There was also information about the skills we are to develop to survive under new climate challenges. In unison all the works seemed to sing that our time has run out, actions to slow the effects of global warming cannot be delayed. Now in the fall, a point where all, large or small returns to the ground, exhibitions look at the state of things. It becomes of outmost importance to reflect upon the imprint we leave in the ground we occupy, what are we making of it, what are we leaving behind us?

Nearly two months after the disclosure of the sixth assessment report presented by the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC), there is only one possible question: How can we face the future? The state of things according to the report is that climate change is widespread, rapid and intensifying. So anything other than stopping in the act, and fundamentally transforming our ways of living, is a gamble with nature. The clock is still ticking, tic-tac, tic tac, as the title of Birgitta Linharts exhibition suggests.

The exhibitions during 2021 have offered knowledges produced from a relation to the soil, not the separation from it. In looking at the state of things, these exhibitions carefully and compellingly weave together data with interpretations and analyses of contemporary techno-industry, with accounts of the lives of the people. The works forge new associations and unexpected insights, compelling us to encounter our world, a place where nothing is fully autonomous. This simply means that anything we do still matters.


Mariangela Mendéz Prencke, Konsthallschef