Yasmin Smith | Sustaining Assembly - Pratiche artistic per una transizione ecologica dal basso, 2021 | Parco Arte Vivente, Turin, Italy | Land of Fire | curated by Piero Gilardi and Marco Scotini

Terra Dei Fuochi is a research project focusing on the relationship between humans and plants to heal our common earth, designed as a site-specific intervention in the context of the so-called Terra dei Fuochi, in the Italian region of Campania. Yasmin Smith conceived the project establishing a collaboration with a Professor of Agronomy from the University of Napoli, Federico II, who provided her with 500kg of poplar wood and leaves coming from an experimental phytoremediation project in the Terra dei Fuochi; phytoremediation techniques implement use of living plants to restore the soil ecosystem services. The poplars (populus nigra) provided by the professor are planted with the aim of blocking contaminants, covering the soil and avoiding the re-suspension of contaminated soil particles.

The work presents ceramic reproductions of these poplars' trunks: the artist realized plaster moulds and ceramic casts of a selection of specimens, then burnt the original wood and leaves to make ashes from which she produced the ceramic tree trunks' external glaze. The ash glaze's aesthetic result is directly connected to the plant's chemical composition and to the soil in which the plants grew, since it is from this soil that minerals and metal elements (chemicals) derive. These same metallic elements are revealed through the colour and aesthetic consistency of the final glazes. Plants usually accumulate only metals in water-soluble form and accumulate them (in a decreasing order) in roots, leaves, bark, wood. The majority of the ceramic poplar trunks in this installation are glazed using the ashes of the poplar wood, with a single trunk glazed in the ashes of the poplar leaves, revealing the varying degree of the plants chemical accumulation through the differences of colour and aesthetic outcome of the two ash-glazes, derived from the same trees.


Terra dei Fuochi was commissioned for Rethinking Nature by Madre / Museo d’Arte Contemporanea Donnaregina, in collaboration with Parco Arte Vivente, Turin, Italy.

The artist would like to thank Angelica Tulimiero, Basilio Lamberti and Professor Massimo Fagnano for their collaboration and support on this project. 

This project has been assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council, its arts funding and advisory body.


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