MARIA MICHAILS (Quebec /New York)

S.OIL by Maria Michails, 2012, interactive installation

Inspired by The Land Institute's science-based research into alternative agricultural practices, the installation artwork, S.OIL, combines human-power energy generation, microelectronic systems, video and living plants to communicate the connection between energy and food production. Contrasting the potential of perennial food crops (wheat, sorghum, and sunflower shown) with our current mono-crop system (as depicted in the video), I wanted to open a discussion about responsible land use, topsoil erosion, biofuels, and the rhetoric of “feeding the world” argument invoked by agri-business. Topsoil has been declining at an alarming rate. Farmland, no longer the idyllic picture, is increasingly used for genetically-engineered corn and soybean (canola in Canada), suburban development and, in many areas, for crude oil extraction. Known for their deep root systems that not only prevent topsoil erosion but also build topsoil, can these hybrid perennial plants produce robust seeds? Can they produce large yields without fossil fuel input, enough to 'feed the world'?