project duration: 28/04 - 08/06 2018
location: Cistern in front of the Ujazdowski Castle

Soil, along with its partners air and water, is the foundation upon which
modern society is built and upon which it is utterly dependent. Soil is our
dumping ground and our redemption. Ignored, contaminated, compressed,
and dormant, the dirt that waits patiently in vacant lotsand that underlies
our urban sidewalks, roads and buildingscontains the potential not only for
its own miraculous biological renewal, but for the regeneration of many of
our depleted social, economic, and material structures.

Nance Klehm, The Ground Rules Manifesto, 2015

During her artistic residency at the Ujazdowski, Karolina Ferenc invites us
to her paralaboratory where every day she is going to perform and conduct
experiments making use of the various types of soil we can come across in
the vicinity of the Ujazdowski Castle.

Soil is an ecosystem consisting of rock pieces, decaying organic matter,and
living organisms
. Besides, soil includes water and air. Not all of that is visible -
lets take soil microbiome consisting of bacteria, fungi, protist and viruses:
even though the importance of this invisible world has been recognized already
a hundred years ago
, still most of the soil microorganisms haven't been fully
.The artists aim is to show, in an interesting and imagination-
stimulating way, the most crucial characteristics of living soil, "living soil"
meaning one that has not becom barren due to human activity and is still
inhabited by uncountable microorganisms.

Soils are not generally considered living organisms, but just a staticpassive
medium: a resource we can endlessly take advantage of
, says Karolina Ferenc,
and yet soils are homes and <<collaborators>> to numerous animal, insect and
fungi species; to plants and bacteria. The soil plays host to human activities, 
it is 
a reservoir of biodiversity and traces of the pastWith the use of
instruments of her own design, Ferenc is going to conduct a number of
activities with the common aim to provide data on specific types of soil: their
smell, taste, textureor colour. In her project the artist draws on scientific
research, since science is one of the prime means of analysing and
understanding the world. Still, her activity as a soil researcher goes beyond
the pragmatic, scientific-experiment-based approach. One of the crucial
purposes of the latter is to determine if a terrain is suitable for cultivation;
Ferenc, on the other hand, wants to provid her audience with a more profound
experience, let her guests enjoy sensory, emotional,imaginary, and speculative
stimuli. Her experiments are intimate and at the same time somewhat playful.

The spot where Karolina Ferenc will carry out her project has not been picked
at random
. The cistern, located below ground level, is a revitalised component
of th former castle waste pond
("the castle's intestines"):a fragment of
the sewage system of Ujazdowski Hospital which existed here back in the 19th
. Project Soiltopia is a part of the program of
the Jazdów City Garden.

Ujazdowski Castle website

photos: Bartek Górka
words: Ika Sienkiewicz-Nowacka

Lichen in Love

Graduation project at Design Academy Eindhoven
Social Design Masters 2016
Gijs Bakker Award Nominee

Project is the outcome of 1 - year long research about
a relationship between a human and a nonhuman other.
Project questions our uniqueness as a specie and imagine
a possible shift to more inclusive and open towards non-humans
mindset by proposing a non-utilitarian and nonhuman-centred
approach. A case study organism is lichen - symbiotic creature
inhabiting various natural and man-made surfaces.
‘Lichen in love’ is a speculative scenario where lichen isn’t
approached as an object or commodity, but as a friend and
a subject of a fascination. A set of designed objects reflects
an intimacy and blends boundaries between two distant
organisms. From a scientific balloon that escorts lichen to a saf
e place far away from humans, to an oxygenating mouthpiece,
or a mirror that sheds light on this symbiotic life form.
The objects are accompanied by a set of love letters showcasing
a new and impassioned relationship with a nonhuman.
Read Love Letters and Thesis

1st Transition is called Lichenized Machines.
It’s the most elementary step in approaching non-human
like lichen, because it encourages empathy, curiosity and
non-utilitarian thinking. Designed objects explore the problems
troubling lichens in the Anthropocene - a term proposed by
scientists as a name for a new geological period in which human
become a dominant factor in shaping live on Earth.
Objects question our uniqueness as a specie and ability to
define and solve complex problems of other creatures.

In 2008 the European Space Agency sent 2 species of lichens -
Rhizocarpon geographicum and Xanthoria elegans to the outer
space in order to test their reaction to hostile conditions.
The samples returned to Earth in 2009 and the results were
published in Astrobiology journal. Lichens did a great job - they
went into doormat waiting for a better conditions to arrive,
and came back on Earth alive. In the same time many species
of lichens in being threatened with extinction due to
anthropogenic pollutions and climate change. 
Lichenized Scientific Balloon is an imaginary object allowing
lichen to escape to the outer space, where lichen can hibernate
up to few months and survive.

Lichens as same as humans are being affected by ozone hole.
Some species of lichens produce special pigments as a protection
against UV radiation, other species not and their delicate bodies
suffer a damage. However, even when lichen produces a special
pigments, the production costs her a lot of energy and therefore
it makes her vulnerable. Human skin produce a protective
pigment called melamine, but besides that people came up with
number of additional sunscreens in order to avoid harmful
radiation. This Protective Glass works in analogous way.

The 2nd Transition is called Vibrant Bodies.
Here human approaches lichen with the willingness 
to give something away to her. Lichen is a strange
and distant creature but she is alive and embodied
as same as us, therefore she reacts on subtle changes
in the environment. It gives a possibility to connect
human and lichen in a playful and empathetic way.

Breathing Tube facilitates the exhaled air on lichen.
Human breath contains small amounts of nitrogen
and carbon dioxide which lichens need. Exhaled air
is warm and humid which is a great way to please her.
(photo below: Nicole Marnati)

To go beyond anthropocentric worldview means to make 
an effort in understanding and adjusting to non-human beings.
This object is a special mirror which reflects only particular
wavelengths of light that allow lichen to photosynthesize without
being exposed to harmful UV light.

Series of drawing supporting a non-utilitarian and inclusive thinking below

Convivial Home

design and concept: Ryszard Rychlicki (link)
texts and contextualization: Karolina Ferenc

This project is a speculative rental-housing prototype involving a transgenerational co-living as an alternative to traditional mass housing apartments.

The key aspect of this project - a transgenerational co-living - can be described as a ground for a free exchange of a knowledge and support that might contribute to a self-sufficiency of people being in difficult living situation. The project follows the ethos of collective self-help and culture of sharing.

The only fully separated and fixed space within the unit is a shared bathroom. It is separate because we consider it as the most intimate area within a shared home. It is fixed because of a technical reasons. Privacy layer (movable space dividers) are wrapped around the bathroom in the centre. Rest of the space can be freely arranged with help of the space dividers into sleeping, dining, cooking area and so on. 50m2 unit is intend for a mixed age group with a special focus on students, young professionals, and elderly. Every unit can be occupied with at least 2 people. Inhabitants need to decide on their own about the arrangement of the space. The interior elements allow for a spontaneous rearrangements of the unit program. 2 units are connected with each other by the kitchen area. It’s up to inhabitants how they divide and arrange their private and shared space or how many people they want to live with in total. Relationship between objects that a typical living space contains and consists of like walls, doors, corridors, or kitchen are fluid, and can be adjusted/moved/replaced.

It is believed that collective living might be a way to foster interpersonal bonds and - consequently - fight a loneliness, isolation and inequality amongst students, young professionals and elderly. It may help younger inhabitants to feel more comfortable with the idea of getting older in a society obsessed with youth and restrained by same-age group education. As Ivan Illich argued1, education shouldn’t be limited to a specific age group in order to allow all people, despite their age, to learn from each other, the same might be applied to co-housing, where both - young and old - would benefit from living in diverse environment. Dealing together with both - routine and unexpectedness - of everyday life situations might offer a positive lesson from sociality and togetherness for those who suffer loneliness or frustration caused by extreme individualization in modernity.

The interior within this project becomes a tool for a spontaneous and active creation of living space, which is not only a space for sleeping and eating but, perhaps, for a support and caring as involvement and participation is needed to create and define the space. This new form of home unit aims to provide care and informal education - a place of production, not only consumption.

1 - Ivan Illich, ‘Deschooling Society’, Marion Boyars Publishers Ltd, 2000

A – 50m2 floor
B – foldable wall
C – privacy layers (movable space dividers)
c1 – visual & acoustic layer
c2 – gradient screen – intimate visual barrier
c3 – functional mesh – work layer
D – central bathroom
E – ceiling rails
F – mobile kitchen
G – mobile storage
H – mobile/foldable bed

My Neighbour Tree
Storytelling beyond human

My Neighbor Tree is an exploration of an unseen world of trees. The story is based on a case study of spontaneous repopulation of post-industrial land by community of a sylvan giants in Kocevje. The outcome of the project is formalized into a collection of objects which intrigue with their strange and quirky appearance, yet leave the viewer confused as they fail to relate to any common understanding of plants within a human-centered world view.

The project includes a series of short stories about each extensively studied tree. Every story includes characteristics comprising a personality of tree creatures, which informs visualizations and spatial translations. This approach seems absurd from Western point of view which assigns a personality and a sentience exceptionally to human.

By producing an abstract representation of a trees’ personality, a new and unexpected quality emerge. This quality is not about a reduction of a tree to something useful or practical, nor refers to a human by means of anthropomorphism. Spatial translation of each tree intentionally avoid to relate to their visual appearance and to associate with human-like qualities.

The exploration of a different than human-like modes of thinking and thus shifting our attention away from our exceptionalism, aims to encourage more empathetic and respectful ways of existing with other kinds of life and non-life. By pointing exclusively onto nonhuman being this project can open up new kinds of possibilities of inerspecies understanding and relating.

Project is a part of BIO 25: Faraway, So Close Biennale in Ljubljana

Read research book

Group website

Concept store on Rozengracht 75

Idea of the interior comes from the analogy to informal spaces for social
gatherings in Poland. Due to lack of a decent space for outdoor meetings
especially in residential areas, inhabitants started to use carpet hangers
for beating (so-called ‚trzepaki’) as multifunctional objects served, for example,
as meeting points. Trzepak used to imply social meetings, gymnastics, relaxation,
dating and many more. We decided to connect this phenomena with the concept
store Salamon Art & Design, which is a sort of a playground for Polish design,
culture and gathering spot for local community.

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