Soil-brain, Gut-brain

Sculpture and audio, 2023

Soil-brain and Gut-brain are new works comprising a sound piece (8 min 15 secs) and a ceramic sculpture. They form part of a wider research project titled Making Kin with Soil, presented in collaboration with the Eden Project, University of Exeter’s Environmental and Sustainability Institute, and Radical Ecology.

Both artworks intend to disrupt notions that soil should remain in place, envisioning soil as a body that both moves and behaves. While we often reflect on the importance of soils to us, these pieces prompt us to contemplate what other bodies mean to soils.

Soil-brain, the audio-piece, takes the form of a meditative journey. Listeners are invited to take on the perspective of a thinking, acting, and feeling soil body, and reflect on what fertility, productivity, and vitality mean to soils. The piece concludes with an invitation to inhabit soil’s skin, and experience an earthworm entering their surface layer, adjusting their weight, thickness, and porosity.

Gut-brain, is a tall vessel shaped out of clay. The vessel recalls the digestive system of an earthworm - tracing its form from the mouth, pharynx and oesophagus, all the way down to the crop, gizzard, and intestine. These stacked vessels symbolise the journey of soils and nutrients as they pass through an earthworm’s body - where they are mined, recycled, tamed, cleared, and renewed.

Together, these two artworks raise questions about the relationships between soils and earthworms. Is the soil eating and absorbing the earthworm, or the earthworm consuming the soil? The intent, to explore non-human entanglements through the lens of of eating, digesting, and nourishment. 

Kinnomic Botany

Freeing the Potato from its Scientific and Colonial ties, Film, 2020-22

Kinnomic Botany sets out a vision of a parallel botanical world through the ‘eyes’ of a potato. Entered through a clay pot, the landscape makes visual a system of mapping that encompasses what has long been lost from the potato’s history, while offering new pathways to connect with the plant world through personal and tacit experience.

As a species that crossed the Atlantic from Peru, the potato is subject to a typical hero story - the unexpected reward reaped by conquistadors on their exhibitions to Peru in search of gold. Instead, they returned with the potato. The result, a spread of potatoes emerging from a narrow genetic bottleneck and a nomenclature to represent a new order over territories, borders, and non-human bodies.

But now
It is time to re(remember)
I am more than my tuber.
I am my seed,
my flower,
my fruits,
my roots.

Making Kin With Soil

Research project, 2023

A three-month residency and research project with the University of Exeter’s Environment and Sustainability Institute (ESI) and the Eden Project in Cornwall.

Taking place between May-August 2023, the residency, entitled ‘Making Kin with Soil / kindling new grammars’, forms part of the Eden Project’s 2023-24 site-wide narratives on Global Food Security.

As part of this residency, I am working with researchers at the ESI and Eden Project to explore strategies that bridge across different knowledge strands, connecting the local to the global and the creative to the empirical, to create common and shared grammars for reanimating soil and communicating their inhabitants’ sentience and liveliness.

Mapping will serve as a crucial tool, capturing moments of interaction and difference within soils, and between cultural and scientific fields. 

More information coming soon.

Seed & Tuber

Genetic Codes of Agency and Inertness, Film, 2022

The potato is a multi-world.
Travelling through the rips and
tears of geographic expansion.
Pulled through new lands, 
to new lands.
A settler and immigrant of 5 parts, 
4 lost.

A dialogue between a potato seed and a potato tuber, exploring their genetic trajectories as they respond to themes such as migration, belonging, and rootedness. 

Making a Name

Yukon Gold or yellow-as-the-tired-belly-of-the-lizard?

Making a Name is an interactive and collaborative audio-installation. The artwork invites participants to consider new and enriched vocabularies for the naming and categorisation of plants through touch, imagination and play.

Participants are invited to pick up a potato, feel their eyes, and consider the textures of their skin. With these answers, they create a unique name for their potato: examples include beige-wise-whale, a violet shaft of stardust, and as surprised as a lost soul.

Making a Name seeks to open the fields of nomenclature and taxonomy to non-scientists of all ages. In centering invention, participants may consider what can be gained from attuning their senses to the vegetal world. Each name is a condensed form of knowledge; a record of an interaction rooted in observation and an antidote to reductionism.

© Iman Datoo