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Venus Jasper is a queer visual artist, storyteller, world builder, performative priestess, researcher, educator, writer, and curator, currently based in Amsterdam, Netherlands.

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Sacred Soils

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After having gone on research trips to investigate permaculture and ecology, and then towards matriarchy, story-telling and music, I entered a more focussed period where we looked more deeply at soil, earth and dirt, both before and after the cumulative exhibition EARTHSHRINE between 2021 and 2022.

A recent report by IPBES showed that currently 33% of soils on the earth are degraded, meaning they are unable to produce human food. [4] With the current rate of soil exploitation, the expectation is that 99% of soils could become degraded by 2050.5 Since all human food, except sustenance salvaged from the ocean, originates in soil it is urgent to address this degradation, even just for the survival chances of the human species.


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Georgia Kareola, in To Live and Die with Soil.

Soil. What a world. My research on soil in ways started a long long time ago, in projects at my Bachelor even. But it came back with the making of the music video DIRTY and the following shorter video-work EARTHHURT. I was seeking sculptural and tactile ways to present these former music pieces, and to curb away from purely performance and pop-music references, and actually bring more attention to the substance at the center of it all: earth, soil, ecology, and therewith: life!



In 2021, I co-curated the art manifestation RE_NATURE in 2021, an exhibition that centered on nature, earth, art, society, innovation but also ancient wisdoms. The chapter I curated includedwonderful works by Tabita Rezaire (FR), Institute of Queer Ecology (USA), Melanie Bonajo (NL), Zheng Bo (CN), Arahmaiani (ID), Keiko Sato (JP), Amanda Piña (CL), Müge Yilmaz (TR) and others. For this show, I worked on an installation-version of my own work EARTHHURT, including a selection of photographs taken with Kyle Tryhorn for the project (he also took the photo at the top).


At the time, I was teaching at a module on future, ecology and speculation at the Ecology Futures MA, MIVC|St. Joost, Den Bosch (NL). The course, and also my other teaching at the time, centered on the work of the Environmental Scholar Robin Wall Kimmerer, who wrote the by now famous book Braiding Sweetgrass. Leading from this, I co-curated the exhibition All Flourishing is Mutual, at MELKWEG Amsterdam, a show that was centered on more-than-human relations. Soon after this came the call from MU Eindhoven, an incredible experimental and professional venue who I had worked with before. I was asked to work on a large scale solo presentation, which lead me to the creation of a temple for the earth in my own hometown, a place where I spent countless summers in my childhood performing rituals and offerings in the swamp-y lands around my home.

Rituals, Offerings, Temple for the Earth?

Yes, in 2022 I created my first speculative temple for the Earth, or rather, for soil actually! EARTHRHRINE was a large soloshow that can best be seen as a speculative shrine for soil, which presented a lot of artworks created in the years leading up to it during the Reviving Matriarchy. The show presented a lot of artworks from the years leading up to it, such as EARTHHURT and DIRTY, two works where the white-clad druid of former times is transformed into dancing lavender alien-fauns, prancing around and investigating the sacredness of soil.



The sculpture EDEN SPACECRAFT was also made for this show. This was a large 9X9x4,5 meter handcrafted spaceship made from wood, carrying an ecosystem of medicinal herbs, a futuristic fountain of stone, a pond, crystals, tubes, grow-lights and fog inspired by a sketch I had made in 2009. All these works together revived my own former artistic play,  recalling my bachelor period (2006 - 2010). It mattered to me, after over a decade of art making, to return to my own source of visions, colors and shape.


There was also a reading table, a sketchbook, several composting altars and a unique scents and soundscape made with Merle Bergers. All the works and spaces for sensuous exploring was bound together in several hand-made hemp-fiber and willow 6 x 10 meter walls.



Life programing and education?


Yes, the show was activated by a live program, ranging from educational workshops and academic talks to live rituals and entire music nights with ceremonial-rave music, featuring several international artists; Victoria McKenzie, Georgia Kareola, YaYa Bones (Bones Tan Jones), sWitches and Ibelisse Guardia Ferragutti.

We created the discursive evening Temple-Talk: Is Soil Sacred? which was a conversation between Victoria McKenzie, Georgia Kareola and myself. A few days later we conjured fungal spores and future visions for Prayer-performance: EARTH FUNGUS BLESSING, a collective ritual performance with Victoria Mckenzie. We cumulated the vibes during EARTHRAVE, a music-ritual with several artists, and many dancing and crawling visitors. All of these activities activated the extensive reading table presented at EARTHSHRINE, curated by MU director Angelique Spaninks and myself.



Later that same year, me and Victoria McKenzie were invited by Erika Sprey to conduct a workshop and to interview Vandana Shiva for the Studium Generale at KABK, the Hague - what a great honor! Together with the students from the KABK we created a clay container holding future soils, which was left in the central patio of the school. Following this, was Music for the Earth, a live performance for soil with a live Cello Octet, taking place at Dat Bolwerk, Zutphen. It was a very interesting series of events, which showed my some aspects of the use of my voice. I realized and felt that the work of S T O N E O R G Y was too upbeat and too pop for me: my voice was deepening and becoming more reminiscent of soul and R&B. So naturally, I wanted to sing deeper, lower and longer stanzas.


Near the end of summer 2023, I taught a six-week immersive course at ArtEZ University of the Arts (BEAR), with special guests: Muge Yilmaz, Marija Šujica & Emiel Wolf from Four Siblings. A journey in which the art students grounded their thinking and making in local soils. We explored what new languages and practices of care are required to (re)weave earthly kinship, asking ourselves what speculative -and real!- futures are needed urgently. We concluded this course by collectively building a mound of compost at the Four Siblings project in Amsterdam. A compost heap, containing fibers, soils, matters, but also worms and wishes and intentions we set for ourselves, the soil, and the earth.



The sacred compost heap built with the students from BEAR ArtEZ at the Four Siblings project as part of the course Future Fields.

It's been incredible to explore soil through art, music, discussion, and through workshops and education. In ways I never left the research on Sacred Soils, but something in me began to channel the work of EARTHHURT. And as it beckoned me, I entered an area, not of fantastic dancing lavender faun speculation, but one of climate grief, of pain, and trauma - my own trauma. I was called forth by the very swamps of my childhood, to dig deeper. Like fungal creatures hibernating in the peat, my creativity went underground and found a path into Wetland Worship, my current research.

XOXO
Venus


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