Land of Diatoms
12.2016 — On-going

w/ María Boto Ordóñez + Inés Cámara Leret — Work enabled by Laboratorio 987 at MUSAC — w/ Laboratory of Diatomology from the University of León

Land of diatoms is a hybrid research project which begun in 2016, soon incorporating ethnobotanist Dr. Estrella Alfaro and diatomologist Dr. Saúl Blanco in its development. The project explores relationships between the territory of Castile and León and its people through the study of diatoms as metaphor, to establish a dialogue, trace historical events and discuss existing and desirable narratives of the earth, its waters and its inhabitants.

In 1989, the Plaza del Grano in León was restored for the last time using a traditional paving technique by the Seoane brothers. Carried out with their support, the Suelo Vivo (living ground) intervention at Laboratorio 987 of the Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Castilla y León (MUSAC), alludes to the inheritance of a vernacular knowledge of the territory, its uses and misuses, against the incipient, local anesthesia of the square in the incorporation of materials such as cement for its rehabilitation. The active memory of traditional ways of doing and knowing is suggested, giving visibility to the daily life of the microscopic world on which we walk.

The work experimented with scientific instruments such as the scanning electron microscope, imparting an exercise of scale by visualising communities and individuals unseen by the naked eye. The resulting SEM images depict stories of migration, for example visualising diatoms from the water channel of Castile, which irrigates the fields near the town of Cascón de la Nava. This town was newly constructed to house relocated residents from the town of Riaño, flooded along with 8 other nearby towns upon the construction of a dam in the early 1980s.

The project explores the creation of its own research tools, starting from simple materials and extending beyond scientific protocols. Luis, for example, a water diviner whose body vibrates with the presence of water, measures a network of forces through his copper wires. His feeling of space was recorded by tracing a mesh on the floor of the Laboratory 987 at MUSAC, as an approximation to the various individual and collective understandings of the territory.

2018, SCL