Anne O'Brien, Australian Catholic University

Sydney 2018: Issues, people and publics

In my interactive exhibit I invite participants to examine how organisms that create soil and mediate decomposition become evident, through intentional or unintentional means. Using magnification tools and pictures, as well as by compiling stories of mishaps in which compost efforts have gone wrong, I seek to inventory different kinds of encounters that make evident the interface between humans and the organisms that we depend upon in decomposition and the production of soil. How does this relationship become ethically charged? When might it inspire recognition and care? Drawing from my own research on regenerative land stewardship practices I will display stories of practitioners learning to be affected, highlighting the ways in which they became ethically responsive to these organisms. Reflecting upon points of friction, broken tools and difficulties encountered in personal experiences of worm farming, bokashi making and hot composting, I will also attend to moments in which the public/private divide breaks down, literally or figuratively overflowing into public realms. These are moments that can reveal the contingency of decomposition and soil production assemblages, the hidden labours involved in maintaining them as well as anxieties, problems and possibilities for a more deliberate sharing of responsibility for the health of the ecosystems that make such processes possible.