Empire of Dirt

“Empire of Dirt considers our relationship with the constructed landscape. Where does that put us as observers and participants in an interwoven biology with the body, the landscape and in the structures that we build?” Artist, James Geurts.

Alex McCulloch Art Show Interview (Kim de Kretser & Jodi Newcombe)

Empire of Dirt demonstrates an innovative collaboration between artist James Geurts and environmental microbiologist, Distinguished Professor Andy Ball at RMIT University. It contributes new knowledge regarding the role of public art in engaging citizens in the governance of environmental concerns within cities.

This sculptural installation investigates the complexity of the living earth beneath our feet and proposes how soil biology may adapt to survive the current ecological tipping point of the Earth.

Integrated within the evolving architecture and infrastructure of RMIT’s New Academic Street, this temporary artwork took its form, content and context directly from a soil sample taken at the construction site.

Artist James Geurts, worked in the lab with an environmental microbiologist, Distinguished Professor Andy Ball, to investigate the ecology dynamics of the soil under the microscope. The conversation between existing soil and the process of microorganisms as they adapt to introduced elements such as microplastics, pollutants and metals, informed the shape, dynamic and symbolism of this public sculpture.

The artwork creates a narrative of how future microbiological insects in the RMIT zone have evolved and transformed the soil fabric into living structures, similar to the great termite mounds of the Northern Territory.

Funded by Wonderment Walk Victoria and produced in collaboration with RMIT’s Centre for Art Society & Transformation and Carbon Arts, Empire of the Dirt has been realised through RMIT’s New Academic Street’s Urban Animators: Living Laboratory program and Lightscape Projects RMIT near the New Academic Street development site.