The bio-dynamic compost heap is one of the most significant icons of the environmental age. It is a place of far reaching transformation. Kompost - the heap between ecology and art was an attempt to re-contextualise the fertile heap by putting it into a modern art centre (Fremantle Arts Centre).
Kompost (essay written for the exhibition)
A bio-dynamic compost heap is somewhat exceptional among its conventional and organic relatives. The very heart of bio-dynamic agriculture, it is the centre of a consciously guided transformation of waste-matters into a life-enhancing humus. This transformation is facilitated by means which are as challenging and enlivening to our habitual minds as they are to the rotting household scraps in the heap.
Let us take an example: preparation 502 is one of the six ‘dynamic’ ingredients inserted into the heap. One way of making it is by filling a kangaroo bladder with yarrow flowers and then exposing it to the summer sun before burying it in the earth during winter. This, of course, sounds odd at first. Yet it is this and other seemingly obscure measures that contribute to the well-documented success of biodynamic farming. The obvious quality of the produce, its sustainability and most importantly the healthy increase of the top layer soil, all demonstrate sound practice.
It was the challenging encounter with such different methods and their underlying world-view that promoted the idea to lure the compost heap from its natural environment onto the well-groomed lawns of an Art Centre. For the concepts behind the heaps are as composting to the mind as the preparations put into it. Although bewildering at first, these concepts form part of a body of knowledge that is as organic, whole and alive as the subject it treats.
The roots of this approach go back to the German poet Goethe, and Rudolf Steiner. The latter developed Goethe’s methods of participatory research into nature further into exact spiritual cognition. This led to contemporary reading of the book of nature that forms the basis of biodynamic farming. This new approach is not only ecological in its content but in its method of investigation. It therefore requires a thorough change of mind, a paradigm metamorphosis rather than a paradigm change.
A biodynamic compost heap confronts us with such a different way of understanding. That is why its methods cannot but evoke strong reactions of the most varied kind. To think of the world as a living being has almost become fashionable. To work practically with a world that is not only understood to be living but ensouled and interacting with cosmic rhythms is a different and very challenging matter. To therefore seriously consider exact astronomical relationships for the benefit of a healthy carrot might seem, for some, over the moon. But the unfamiliarity of an idea is no evidence against its efficacy. What is still mind stirring today might prove to be the most fertile solution for tomorrow. It might before long become the basis of a future ecology that understands nature through the totality of all inter-relationships rather than an analysis of its separate parts.
In biodynamic farming this has already become daily practice. Here the totality of inter-relationships includes even the planetary influences that are mediated through the six preparations put into the compost heap. The yarrow preparation, for instance, allows the forces of Venus to interact with the heap and exert a life-enhancing influence through the regulation of sulphur.
It should be obvious that the successful use of such practices challenges many of the most fundamental assumptions of our present world-view. Seen with this in mind the most modest heap on the hill becomes a centre emanating new ideas, a focus of environmental awareness and a signpost towards a new understanding of nature that is sought by many who remain unsatisfied by current views. To bring their fermenting minds into dialogue with its composting counterpart is the main aim of this installation. To facilitate this meeting and aid it with visuals, talks and actions, we see as an act of art that answers one of the most dire needs of our time.