Noun: rhi – zo – sphere
A word originating in part from the Greek word ‘rhiza’ meaning root.
The narrow region of soil or substrate around a plant root that is inhabited by a unique population of soil bacteria and microorganism.
The rhizosphere is a term I learnt only recently when I was testing out some ideas for Underfoot, Overlook walks with some friends on a chilly Saturday in January 2023. It turned out my friend, animator Michelle Tylicki, had recently done a course on soil health and become fascinated with soil microscopy. Michelle described the rhizosphere as ‘where the party’s at’, and that stuck with me.
The Rhizosphere, Glastonbury 2023, is what happened when Benji and I decided the Underfoot installation would make a beautiful setting for workshops and other public activities on soil and all the subjects it intersects with.
As soil so naturally touches intersects with many issues of social and environmental health this project is opening up many new avenues for collaboration and arts-led science communication. It has been met with enthusiasm from lots of organisations, individual artists, growers and food activists who are also eager to enthuse others about how wonderous and vital the stuff under our feet is.
We are keen that it can be a space for people to come together to share and listen, and for it to be a platform for small organisations, especially those led by marginaliesd people, with vision and dedication to a better food system.
My aspiration is that The Rhizosphere set out a positive story of the future of soil and land health.
We can’t put fossil fuels back in the ground but we can rebuild the carbon stores in soil. We can build soil structure so it holds more water and we can nurture soil so it hosts a rich diversity of biological life
Rebuilding the health of soil needs healthy community connections to land which requires a BIG shake up of the status quo when it comes to land ownership and power in the UK food system.
The Rhizosphere – Greenpeace Field, Glastonbury Festival, June23
Ecological entanglement, climate solutions and land justice come together for one colourful and creative party!
Benji, having led the lighting design for the Greenpeace Field for over 10 years, put forward the idea and it was agreed the existing Beam sculpture became The Rhizosphere – a new immersive venue dedicated to celebrating ecological relationships within soil and exploring human relationships to land.
The Greenpeace Field is dominated by the iconic Rave Tree so it was fitting that this perception-shifting space could transport festival goers (conceptually) beneath the tree to experience life amongst the roots in technicolour wonder.
An installation designed for one person at a time isn’t very practical at a festival with 200,000 people so the Underfoot experience was adapted: audio levels and the mycelium light activity was dedicated by how busy the space was and when people discovered the hidden vignettes in the walls it triggered flurry of oversized micro arthropods and nematodes that were animated by Michelle Tylicki.
Each of the five days had a different theme and an eclectic mix of participatory content curated by the day’s hosts.
Sharing their wisdom, creativity and energy in The Rhizosphere were:
Sam and Naomi from LION (Land In Our Names), Zoe Miles who is an organiser with SALT (Solidarity Across Land Trades) and Out On The Land, Fin Jordou from CAT (Centre for Alternative Technology) and Criw Compostio, Izzy Johnston of Rights for Weeds, artist Ione Maira Rojas, artist Jeng Au and theatre maker Hannah Calascione.
The Rhizosphere is produced by Bailes+Light. Thanks to the awesome tech and production team; Kristina Riddington, Dan Gifford, Barri, Taz Patel,
See my instagram posts on each day for a full run down.
Wednesday – Soil as Our Muse
We Belong to the Earth: roots, gatherings, connections, histories & futures
Friday – Practices of Intimacy and Resistance: creative offerings to the earth
Saturday – Multiplicity of nature: queer and trans liberation, racial justice, afro-futurism
Sunday – Making the invisible visible: how the micro shapes the macro