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Design Museum’s exhibition explores the materials used in design processes and their impact on soil

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Soil Matters exhibition features nine projects that crisscross between design, art and research. All the featured projects share a common theme: soil and the relationship between humans and soil. 

In Soil Matters, soil is made visible. As well as being the material used in some of the works exhibited, the exhibition promotes the idea of soil as an element with which we all interact and which design products impact in different stages of their life cycle. Soil Matters marks the end of a three-year series of exhibitions, the purpose of which has been to seek out important new curatorial content to feature in the museum’s Gallery.

According to the Museum Director Jukka Savolainen, museums can initiate discussions and offer venues for dialogue:

“By selecting exhibitions with critical approaches, such as this one, we are able to make room for discussions around the topic and help people see the world we all share with new eyes. The methods in design can be employed to seek solutions to problems that resonate with us all and thus help us see things in a different light.”

Reflecting the human soil relationship in Tzuyu Chen’s Soil Care workshop. Photo: Tzuyu Chen

A toxic lake of mine and refinery tailings stretch for over 6km from Baogang Iron and Steel Corporation.

A toxic lake of mine and refinery tailings stretch for over 6km from Baogang Iron and Steel Corporation. Photo: Toby Smith

One of the more critical projects featured at the Soil Matters exhibition is by the Unknown Fields Division design studio. Their work investigates and reveals the problems involved in the production of consumer products and the materials used in their manufacture. In addition to identifying different soil-related problems the exhibition also offers solutions. For example, the Un/Making Soil Communities project is investigating the possibilities of phytoremediation, a process in which living plants are used to clean up soil, air, and water contaminated with hazardous contaminants. For the Soil Matters exhibition, the curators are cultivating certain types of plants, in effort to remove heavy metals released into soil by the glass industry.

Listen to the interview of the exhibition curator Riikka Latva-Somppi on Helsinki Design Weekly (in Finnish) on Radio Helsinki on 1 October at 12–13, or as a podcast later.

Soil matters exhibition is open until 10 January 2021.

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