Ditch it

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The International Gallery18 September – 2 October
Liverpool Biennial 2010
Curated by James Brady and Janette Porter (http://www.hightideuk.org/)
Ditch it
Environmental activism by play, art, and small and large animals, coordinated by Swedish art and agriculture initiative Kultivator.
Kultivator is located on a flat limestone island that lacks natural rivers. Instead, there are man made ditches, that already since century’s are leading water away from the island to the sea, to create more ground for cultivation and pastures. This has resulted in more land for people to feed on, but is also causing serious problems in the Baltic sea. The ditches carry the water quickly out, bringing with it nutrients leaking out from fertilized fields. This overfeeding of the sea results in an overproduction of algae, and dying seabeds due to lack of oxygen.
Already since years, commercial fishing outside the coast of the island has ceased, and the beaches clog of rotting or poisonous algae, making it hard to play in the shallow water. In the inland the plants and animals living in small freshwater pools and swamps has less and less space to live and breed. The process is a matter of both time and space. If the fresh water is contained and stays on the island longer, microorganisms and larger animals and plants can process the nutrients in the water. If a little bit of land/space is given back to the wetlands, more can eventually be used in the sea. This is a well known fact, but due to slow bureaucratic procedures and land owner issues little happens on a large scale. Time and nutrients passes…

In May 2010, Kultivator dug a pool next to one of these ditches. The water from the ditch was led into the pool and kept there. Water, plants and animals from natural pools was added to it, and a solar powered pump installed to give oxygen. In a small pool like this, it is beneficial if the water is sometimes stirred, what ducks and larger animals normally would do. Unfortunately, no wild ducks introduced themselves, so the village kids, with their remote control boat, some plastic toys and their dog would do that work during the summer. Meanwhile, under the surface, more and more microorganisms established themselves. Dragon flies appeared over the pool. Five freshwater mussels was put in, and to make it possible for them to reproduce, three goldfish were introduced. After a few weeks, shoals of small fish appeared. Probably the offspring of the goldfish. As a result of a project from a visiting artist the Asian water ferm Azolla was added, that can double its biomass in two days, under ideal conditions. It did. The Azolla was harvested to be used as green fertilizer on the raised beds of Kultivator, and fed to chickens and pigs. The pool is now containing salamanders, goldfish, frogs, bugs, worms, barbie dolls, some sunken ship and mussels and all these other little things we don’t know the name of. It also contained and processed nutrients that all this lived from during the five months it existed. The sea never even knew.