Soil Futures Resident Artists

A white person’s hands are shown close up with one holding a black lumpy and hard material with a slight sheen on it, and the other hand points to the material. The person is stood over a whole surface of this black material
Etna (Sicilia), From duo project Sand of noises, Marie Hervé & Elsa Martinez, 2021
Marie Hervé
Artists Al - Wah'at
A pair of hands holds a white piece of paper in front of some plants with green leaves and white flowers.
Weedy strategies: Growing alternative ecological practices from the margins, by Ailo Ribas (Bethnal Green Nature Reserve, 2022)
Raghad is a young light-skinned woman with thick dark brown shoulder-length hair and long bangs. She wears a black mock neck sweater and is captured from her shoulders upwards. She stands in front of a hilly land with dry sarcopoterium and some large rocks. The photo is illuminated by the golden sun at the last hour before sunset.
Raghad Saqfalhait
A collection of clay objects in earth, blue and grey tones are placed in rows on a dark fabric table. They are shot from above and we can see that some are cylinders, some are flat circles and some look like broken pieces of pots.
Raghad Saqfalhait

Introducing the Soil Futures Resident Artists! Soil Futures is a network of creative organisations that explores the ground between us.

The network is a collaboration between five organisations: Arts CatalystRIWAQSakiya -Art/Science/Agriculture, Struggles for Sovereignty, and Vessel Art Project

Following an open call, three artists/artist collectives have been selected to take part in a residency programme between Arts Catalyst (Sheffield, UK); RIWAQ (al Bireh, Palestine); Sakiya - Art/Science/Agriculture (Ein Qiniya, Palestine); and Vessel Art Project (Puglia, Italy). 
 
Over the course of six weeks, Al-Wah’at (Areej Ashhab, Gabriella Demczuk, Ailo Ribas), Marie Hervé, and Raghad Saqfalhait will take part in a rich exchange with local communities of practices – including farmers, ecologists, activists, artists and soil caretakers – to develop their artistic research and to nurture new and existing networks with the support of the host organisations in Italy and Palestine.
 
Find out more about the wider Soil Futures programme here.
 
Artist in residence at Riwaq: Marie Hervé 
Project Title: Recollections
 
How can we construct a memory of the land? During the 6-week research residency with Riwaq the artist will explore the notion of conservation and memory of the soil in Rural Jerusalem by carrying out conversations, recordings and photographic documentation, while also looking closely into historical records and archives.   
 
The practices of archeology and history can either become a way to reclaim a territory or they can be instrumental to erasing its memory. 
 
Starting from a documentary-based approach, the project will then focus on moments of making and meeting with craftspeople, alongside developing a material and relational interaction with the territories around Jaba’, Kafr Aqab, Qalandiya, Beit Hanina and Al Jib.
 
These encounters will lead to the production of material forms, proposing a collective memory of the land that is able to give an account of the geographical and cultural dynamics of these places. 
 
Artist in residence at Sakiya: Al-Wah’at (Areej Ashhab, Gabriella Demczuk, Ailo Ribas)
Project Title: Future Plant
 
During the residency at Sakiya, the artist collective Al-Wah’at will focus on the cactus – in Arabic known as sabr (literally meaning patience) – a Palestinian cultural and political symbol. 
 
In the context of global climate change, the prickly pear cactus is being heralded as the future plant. As a highly water-efficient and drought-tolerant plant, its ability to grow in arid environments have piqued the interests of scientists, who see this as a possible future source of biofuel and food security. Both the plant and its fruit are highly nutritious and are grown commercially in Latin America and the Mediterranean region.
 
A newly-spreading insect called false carmine cochineal (Dactylopius opuntiae) is currently affecting large swaths of prickly pear cacti in Palestine and causing extensive damage to villagers’ agricultural produce. 
 
The false carmine cochineal was initially introduced in countries such as Australia to biologically control cacti populations, where they are regarded as a ‘weed’. The insect rapidly spread in the Mediterranean region, where it is considered a serious ‘pest’. Now, “natural enemies” are yet again being explored as a solution, this time by Israeli researchers seeking to control the recent infestations of D. Opuntiae
 
This brings into question anthropocentric and colonial approaches towards dealing with ‘invasive’ species that position weediness and aridity as ecological issues requiring human intervention. The project asks: How can we address such approaches otherwise through working with the prickly pear cactus as a social, cultural and political agent? How can we learn from local strategies—both human and more-than-human—to live with and adapt to changes in our environments?
 
Artist in residence at Vessel: Raghad Saqfalhait
Project Title: Raw Materials and Human Landscapes 
 
During the residency with Vessel Art Project, in collaboration with Kora – Contemporary Arts Center, the artist’s research will explore questions related to clay sourcing, material cultures, and processes of production within the rural setting of Puglia. 
 
Soil has historically mediated the relationship between humans and their landscape, whether through cultivating it for food, or giving it form through pot-making. These tasks have often been interconnected both spatially and temporally; which is why most of the clay sources were discovered as people were performing other tasks that required close examination of soil.
 
Strata of clay would accidentally appear, bringing to the surface endless possibilities of human-nature interactions, where material is seen not for what it is, but for what it can become. This relationship of “correspondence” between humans and nature is slowly disappearing, as many social and political factors are cutting people off from their local environs. What does it mean to source clay locally today? How can the distribution of resources within a given landscape guide our movement through it? How can these practices redefine the lines along which materials flow and bodies move?
 
The project will build on the artist’s field research on pottery in Al-Jib, one of the oldest and most prominent villages in rural Jerusalem. From the vast vineyards and plains of ancient olive trees, to the centuries-old famous ceramics production; the two Mediterranean areas of Al-Jib and Puglia share a history of rich natural resources and connectedness to the land that is bound to their everyday lives and modes of economic and social production; shaping how they navigate and experience their landscape. 
 
By carrying out workshops, walks, interviews, dialogues, and mapping exercises, the artist intends to explore wild clay sources as catalysts for a reconnection with soil, earth, and the local environment.

About the Artists 

 
Marie Hervé (b.1996, Marseille) is a visual artist and author. She lives and works between Turin (Italy) and Marseille (France). Evolving between Malta, Greece, Southern France, the Maghreb and Italy, her work explores Mediterranean landscapes through the notions of memory and ruin, politics of conservation and historical constructions.
 
The use of the document, the limits of truth and falsity in photography and the relationship with our personal archives are recurrent motifs in her work – from archaeological museum collections to images compulsively recorded on mobile phones.
 
Current and recent projects include: Sand of noises with artist Elsa Martinez; co-founding the collective and publishing house MYTO in 2021; artist in residence for transnational research programme A Natural Oasis? (2022-23); and residencies at Kora Contemporary Arts Center (Puglia) with the French Institute Italia. Exhibitions include Hôtel de l’Industrie (Paris), Librairie du Palais Gallery (Arles), Les Rencontres Internationales de la Photographie d’Arles and FRAC Paca (Marseille), among others.
 
Al-Wah’at is a research collective committed to countering anthropocentric and colonial narratives around arid lands and futures. In Arabic, the singular wah’a means a fertile land within a desert. The term—which shares roots with the words wah’i (revelation), h’aya (life) and h’een (time)—is an opportunity to rethink preconceived notions of life in environments typically regarded as lifeless, to problematise discourses that position land as empty, unproductive or waste, and to centre local communities and ecosystems at the forefront of climate change.
 
As artists, writers, and spatial researchers, Areej Ashhab, Gabriella Demczuk, and Ailo Ribas experiment with counter-mapping, archival materials, and image making through practices of care and knowledge exchanges across the human and more-than-human.
 
Raghad Saqfalhait is an architect and artist working in the field of material research and design. She documents and experiments with materials; their histories of extraction and transformation, their geological structures and compositions, and their entanglement with questions of property and exploitation within geographies of settler colonialism. 
 
Her work was supported by The Prince Claus Seed Awards 2022, and she received the JEA prize for her graduation project ‘Scales of Integration: The Body, the Cemetery, and the Terrain’. In 2019, she co-founded Sakeb; a design collective working on, about, and through waste; especially waste produced by the Stone and Marble Industry in Palestine. Sakeb was exhibited in multiple venues including Milan Design Week (2022), Amman design Week (2019), Warehouse421, Art Jameel, and A.M. Qattan Foundation.