Touche la Terre 2016
90 buckets of earth
I had filled 85 buckets, I had 5 more to go, I looked at my collection – not one contained an earth of the colour, that I had learnt as a child, was the colour of earth, represented by that mid-brown crayon in the pencil box. I found some in the local woods that afternoon, actually two slightly different mid-browns in the same patch, one paler than the other having been worked by worms. My task was complete.
This pathway is made from earths collected mostly in Saone et Loire, all within 50km from Changey where I have lived and worked for the last 23 years. They are used “as found” and I have not altered their colour. Some of them I have used in previous projects, and have been recycled – such as the pale brown from Nolay with which I built ‘Watching Mud Dry’ in 2005. I was shown the communal site where red sand was extracted and used in building many of the houses in the village of Ozenay, that I used in my installation for “Vivre Le Lieu” 2015 and recently returned to collect more. All the red, orange and yellow earths contain ochres, different forms of iron oxide. Burgundy used to be one of the main areas for ochre extraction in France, which amongst other things was used for painting the frescos in Romanesque churches, vestiges of which can be seen on the walls above our heads and in the South chapel of this church.
This installation exploits the architecture of the church and will change over time. Where protected by the roof, the earth remains dry and the forms retain their shape, where unprotected they are vulnerable to water and the sun and it will start to break down and crack. Slowly the contrast between the protected and non protected parts will become more evident. With no roof to protect us from the rain suddenly we become very vulnerable. This year we have been reminded how an unexpected excess of water can radically change our inner and outer landscapes, our homes and our livelihoods.
By now I have learnt from the Japanese artist Koicha Kurita that no two earths have the same colour and that indeed there exists the Munsell Soil Chart which was devised in the 1930s to provide a colour coding system for earth. In this project I have chosen to present a diversity of colours, collected from local places that I have discovered by observation or by talking to people. There were some clays that I didn’t have access to, such as the black from Cirey-le-Noble, where the farmer had filled the pit with rubble to reinforce his river bank. The more I look and ask, the more I discover about the richness and the diversity of this material which we walk on, which contains water and feeds us, and to which one day we return.
90 buckets of earth july 2016
de cortiambles, givry