Clinging to the walls of RMIT's Rodda Lane is Empire of Dirt, a new temporary public artwork by James Geurts.
The installation engages the public with what is already present in the site, in the darkness and complexity of the living earth beneath our feet, and proposes how the biology may adapt to survive the current ecological tipping point of the Earth. Exploring themes of ecology, soil biology and species adaptation, Geurts brings art and science into conversation with the construction site of RMIT's New Academic Street.
Just like species migrating south to cooler climates, Geurts' termite mounds now inhabit Rodda Lane, off La Trobe Street. Together with a series of light box works featuring site drawings and imagery produced from the lab, the installation proposes a future, human and technology-influenced, hybrid ecology.
- Exhibition dates: Saturday 6 May, 2017 – Saturday 17 June, 2017
- Exhibition launch: Wednesday 10 May 2017, 5.00pm – 6.30pm
Emerging from RMIT's Centre for Art Society and Transformation, the project was designed in collaboration with a number of partners, including Carbon Arts and New Academic Street's Urban Animators: Living Laboratory program, to test public art's role in bringing science and sustainability conversation to a broader audience.
It has already demonstrated new ways of thinking about research emerging from cross-disciplinary collaboration with the arts, evidenced by the experience of scientist and collaborator Professor Andy Ball, Director of RMIT's Centre for Environmental Sustainability and Remediation.
"I think we, as humans, have become disconnected from the land. Through James' work, and the artist's eye, we get a clearer insight into what's happening in response to man-made contaminants and are able to better communicate this to the public," says Professor Ball, who was motivated by this project to instigate future artist-in-residence opportunities at his research centre.
James Geurts is an artist based in Melbourne and The Hague, completing his Master of Fine Art at RMIT, and The Vrije Academie, GEMAK, Netherlands. He has been producing large scale, site and time-specific projects and gallery works in international contexts since 2002.
Empire of Dirt forms part of a Wonderment Walk Victoria's growing open air gallery of sculptures and installations combining science, mathematics and art to engage passers-by with wonder, delight and curiosity.