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Beauty in the Gutters

“Soil Blind,” a collaborative work by three Aztecs, is currently displayed at the Woodbury School of Architecture’s San Diego campus in Barrio Logan.
Soil Blind - an installation
Soil Blind - an installation

“Soil Blind,” a collaborative work by three Aztecs, is currently displayed at the Woodbury School of Architecture’s San Diego campus in Barrio Logan.

Artists Jonathan Austin, ’03, and Jeremy Gercke, ’01, worked with David Lipson, SDSU professor of ecology and soil biology, to create the installation.

A seasonal work

It consists of more than 100 ceramic modules filled with dirt and connected by cables suspended from a steel frame. Forming a structure that mimics a blind for bird watching, the installation is timed to coincide with the spring season of new growth, insect pollination and bird migration.

The modules, filled with dirt from the gutters of Barrio Logan, are a fertile seed bank with the potential to grow grasses, groundcovers and more substantial plants.

“Soil in the urban environment is not unlike soil outside of the city, but the history and origin become harder to pinpoint,” Lipson said. “The scientific analysis of this gutter debris gives us important information about the soil and where it comes from.”

On display through June

The title of the work conveys the artists’ intent to preserve wildlife in the urban setting, Austin said. Present in the soil is a vast, unseen microbial community of brightly colored bacteria that play a vital role in the urban ecosystem and even shape the way the soil behaves and smells.

“Soil Blind” is on display through June at the school on Main Street in downtown San Diego. 

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