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Creative processes

Ensayos’ Patagonian peatland research began some years before TurbaTol Hol-Hol Tol was conceived, but once the project was officially selected to represent Chile at the 59th International Art Exhibition La Biennale di Venezia it took on a life of its own—inspired by the Ensayos platform and informed by new participants and visions.
The stages of research, conceptualization, creation, production, and installation of Turba Tol Hol-Hol Tol were collaborative processes led by different members of the creative team. What follows is an overview of some of the crucial moments of these processes.

Research

Collective fieldwork is central to Ensayos’ grounded research, and this took place at Karukinka Park in Tierra del Fuego as the initial stage of Turba Tol Hol-Hol Tol.

During this two-week period, almost all of the creative contributors to Turba Tol participated in an exploratory intensive residency, delving into the scientific knowledge and the Selk'nam cultural value of Fuegian peatlands, guided by Bárbara Saavedra, Nicole Püschel, and Rodrigo Munzenmayer from the Wildlife Conservation Society Chile, Hema’ny Molina and Fernanda Olivares of Fundación Hach Saye, and Camila Marambio of Ensayos.

Read more about it here

Conceptualization

After being shortlisted in the competition to represent the Chilean Pavilion at the 59th International Art Exhibition Biennale de Venezia, Camila invited the artists and other creative collaborators to flesh out the project’s curatorial vision before officially submitting the final proposal to the Chilean Ministry of Culture’s open call. During this two-month period, the team met weekly, and developed a comprehensive program. Below is a first draft of the curatorial vision for Turba Tol Hol-Hol Tol.

Download the program in spanish

Photo by Benjamin Echazarreta - TurbaTol @ Karukinka Park. January 2022

Creation

Sound

By Ariel Bustamante

Listening is unlocked by speaking, just like exhaling is unlocked by inhaling. A circle is sustained, a continuity of air that connects every breathing being: Humans, trees, or peatlands. All of them renew a common air, and in their own ways, all of them listen. It’s one vital, transboundary atmosphere that each individual transforms, metabolizes, and sings as it enters and exits their bodies and territories. Turba Tol feel/speaks healing words for a local ecosystem that needs to be heard by the world. The sonic air that makes Turba Tol fly undulates in circles that travel towards the north, but always return to Karukinka. We make chains of ears and mouths with the help of others, en-chanting the words grandmother and ambiguous, the words new and mestizx, Selk'nam and vegetal - all of them advancing and spinning on themselves, mixed, back and forth. Our chain of damp air carries a living load, one that cannot be translated in text, but rather, is only condensed when it holds hands, forming a chain. Turba Tol is heard making a family, making old and new affiliations with a single commitment: to hold up the chain until it reaches Tierra del Fuego’s peatlands. The invitation is to commit to listening, which is the same thing as committing to attend. May this yatayken kar air fly.

Image

By Dominga Sotomayor

For the projection, the search had to do with gathering preliminary and abstract panoramic images of the peatlands. Underutilizing the technology of two virtual reality cameras, we sank into the mud, moss, and water. It was a sampling, a recompilation of ground imprints that were later developed. What appeared were underground cuts and peat without selection or horizon, confusing vegetable perspectives and dimensions.

We moved forward looking down; we stopped at random corners, and repeated the vertical movement in order to disappear from the landscape and imagine other landscapes that were impossible to explore.

Editing at Harvard Film Center © Dominga Sotomayor

Architecture

By Alfredo Thiermann

A five-meter diameter translucid cyclorama is posed like an insect over a field of Sphagnum, acting as a resonating membrane for a language that is reborn and a landscape that resists. The Selk'nam language and the Patagonian peatland landscape share a past whose future—irrefutably connected—is amplified through this construction’s fragile materiality. Cycloramas, panoramas, and dioramas have historically been the spatial devices through which nature and the bodies of its inhabitants have been captured, colonized, and transplanted. Voices, sounds, and images come forward in this forum, leaning against each other, at least resisting and at most reverting this trajectory. Posed on top of the Sphagnum, the fragile structure is an inverted cyclorama.

The scaffolding is simple. A conical structure with slim profiles holds up a membrane made of algae and a multiple-channel sound system. This rests upon the field of Sphagnum which is irrigated with Venice rainwater that has been stored and channeled into the pavilion. Visitors walk over the Sphagnum until they reach the heart of the cyclorama. Images are projected onto the membrane and the voices of the reborn language and the sounds of the resisting landscape travel within and out of the boundaries that it defined. As days pass by, the Sphagnum’s moisture will erode the vegetable membrane that supports the projection of its own images, combining one vegetable material with the other through Venice’s water.

The Book edited by Carla Macchiavello and Camila Marambio

The book Turba Tol Hol-Hol is a compendium of the extensive eco-cultural thought of Latin American authors who center their attention on struggles, ways of doing, and experiences of care from the South.

More about the book

Graphic design

By Rosario Ureta

Script, a visual way of representing a sound, a forgotten tongue
Synesthesia, wanting to convey a sensation, a smell, a sound to something visual
Translating the peatland’s sponginess into a drawing or an image
Making a friendly presentation of scientific contents
To be in many eyes, to rumor that we must get to know them and conserve them

Website

By Mateo Zlatar and Carola del Río

Turba Tol Hol-Hol Tol’s web presence is a reflection of the dynamics of the human group behind the project: a collaboration without limits or vetoes. The website’s aesthetic interprets and activates the visual world that Rosario Ureta has been developing since the project began. The site was coded from scratch in clean code, without templates or CMS (content management system), which gives us more creative flexibility and greater economy of data transmission and storage. When it came to selecting a data hosting provider, we were concerned by the fact that data centers represent 2% of the world’s carbon emissions and are projected to reach 14% by the year 2040. It is for this reason that we took the time to research different options and pick the one that was the most efficient and generous in its contributions to renewable energies.

Production

By Juan Pablo Vergara

​​​​The pavilion’s production was executed in a way that was as organic as the art and ecology themes that traverse its curatorship. Our first consideration was to always think of Turba Tol Hol-Hol Tol as a long-term project, one that goes far beyond its staging in the pavilion and materializes in diverse digital and in-person instances throughout the year, both in Venice as well as in other areas of the planet where peatlands exist.

​​As a collaborative and transdisciplinary project, our main challenge was to unify all of the ideas and experiences of a large team that is made up of artists, scientists, and experts, all distributed throughout diverse parts of the world. It is for this reason that we decided that the initiation rite had to be a field visit to the Karukinka Reserve in Tierra del Fuego. This experience allowed for the team’s members to get to know each other better and gain a closer understanding of the territory where the peatlands are located.

​​The production design was planned in a way that was transversal, without hierarchies, in which everyone could participate and be heard. This is how we worked from a central nucleus that collated and coordinated the actions and information of diverse subgroups on a daily basis, watching how these became intertwined while taking into consideration content, design, smell, architecture, and montage.

INSTALLATION

SphagnumLAB

By Nicolás Arze

We have developed a functional laboratory within the installation in collaboration with the scientists at the Greifswald Mire Centre, a leading research institution on peatlands and paludiculture, in Greifswald, Germany. In order to create the proper environment for Sphagnum moss to grow in the Chilean Pavilion at the Biennale, we consulted with Greifswald scientists to understand the protocols regarding water quality, light source, temperature, humidity, and nutrition developed for their own lab work, and collaborated with them to develop a system that will meet the needs of Sphagnum. We intend to assure the optimal survival of the Sphagnum during the length of the Biennale, and also to gather data regarding Sphagnum viability and growth in various conditions. This data complements the data gathered in GMC experiments, which yield information that can inform alternatives to the mining of peat bogs around the world. We also attempt to create an artificial environment that introduces and celebrates the uniqueness of the ecosystems of the peat bogs of Patagonia, and specifically to their main organism, Sphagnum moss.

As part of SphagnumLAB, Christy Gast of Ensayos spent three weeks in Greifswald and Hankhausen, Germany, as artist in residence at the Greifswald Mire Centre (GMC), which was supported by Die Beauftragte der Bundesregierung für Kultur und Medien2, Caspar-David-Friedrich-Jubiläum, and the Universitäts- und Hansestadt Greifswald. During the residency, Gast worked with GMC scientists and Turba Tol collaborators to design the aesthetics and methodology of the SphagnumLAB experiment.

More about SphagnumLAB

Sphagnum Harvest © Chrysty Gast

Lights

By Antonia Peón-Veiga

If we think of Turba Tol as an ecosystem in which the intention is to generate favorable conditions for the Sphagnum to live in, elements such as light, water, and air become fundamental. The space’s illumination was designed with an understanding of the moss’ light requirements in order to grow successfully in this new environment for the exhibition’s entire duration.

The installation uses 14 full-spectrum luminaires, suspended throughout the space and distributed homogeneously so as to create an environment that resembles the sun’s natural light. The light spectrum is crucial in order for photosynthesis to occur; high light intensities and hours of rest are also necessary, just as they would happen in nature.

We also preferred that these luminaires be dimmable and that their color temperature could be controlled, which meant that their function could also have a second role that could contribute to the space’s ambiance and accompany the spectator’s journey.

Scents gifted to Turba Tol

By international Ensayos pods

The bogs and fens of Australia, North America, and Norway are diverse in their ecologies, cultural meanings, and conservation status. They were sites of inquiry, connection, and meditation during Ensayos residencies with artists, indigenous activists, and scientists. As a result of this creative fieldwork, three international Ensayos pods conjured gifts of scent from their local peatlands to contribute to the multisensory experience of Turba Tol.

Learn more

Biomaterial Skin

By Sinestesia

In order to project the film, we developed a biomaterial skin that was fabricated by the creative industries sinestesia.cc laboratory team in collaboration with Universidad de Chile’s Fab Lab.

The skin is a biocomposite based on 100% organic components containing algae extracts, collagen, and glacial acetic acid, among others, which act as natural structural agents, plasticizers, and preservatives, thus managing to constitute a translucid and extremely thin self-supporting skin. It is capable of concentrating light through microparticles without losing its transparency, becoming a biodegradable rear projection screen that when continuously exposed to moisture, touch, and external agents, degrades and can be colonized by fungus and moss. Its durability as of now lasts about three months, and it is estimated that its decomposition begins at close to six months, guaranteeing that it can easily become part of the Earth once more. In addition, its composition allows for one piece to be attached to another by heat-sealing, thus avoiding the use of glues and other chemicals in order to create large skins.

Bioskin fabrication © Sinestesia

Coordination

By Alessandra Dal Mos

This project’s implementation was a dynamic process full of lessons and discoveries. The work's complexity can be compared to that of a house—this is a delicate refuge in the middle of some peatland in the south of Chile that has been transported to a finite space: the pavilion inside Venice’s Arsenale. It all began with a plan, an imaginary playing field in which each person placed their own pieces. My role as coordinator was to find a space for each player, merging disciplines and dialogues, while minding tone and distance.

In technical language, the objective was to coordinate specialized fields, autonomous worlds that come into dialogue with each other in Turba Tol. Structure, electricity, and hydraulics participate in a single body. Some of the challenges of producing living conditions for living beings include tackling the complexity of when an electrical cable passes through a hydroponic plantation, or when a structure moves in order to give space for video projections. The aim is to provide water, light, and air for Sphagnum, and consider the ecological impact of all the construction materials, within the pavilion’s established time frames of production. I hope that all of these small decisions—made with care and taken rigorously into account—will ensure a holistic viewing experience.