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New artist-in-residence Masha Ru explores eating soil

New artist-in-residence Masha Ru explores eating soil

Masha Ru, NIAS’ new artist-in-residence, will explore an extraordinary food habit: the eating of soil, chalk and clay. The fellowship is co-sponsored by the KNAW – Society of Arts.

“In the Western world, the eating of soil and soil-like substance, such as clay and chalk, is considered dirty and unhealthy. It is even regarded as a psychological disorder, ” says Masha Ru. “But it is an old tradition, and still a part of culture in countries in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Animals are also known to eat soil and clay. How can one explain these different perspectives, and why is something that is seen as ‘normal’ in one culture, considered a disorder in another culture?”

This is one of the questions that Masha Ru will focus on during her 5-month fellowship. “Some scientists who study the eating of soil have never tasted soil themselves.” In an effort to bridge the gap between research and practice, and art and science, Ru will invite scientists and other interested parties to join her in soil tasting events, tasting samples of soil from all over the world that she has collected over the years.

Masha Ru

Russian-Dutch artist Masha Ru (1984) studied cybernetics in Moscow, photography in Amsterdam and wrote a Ph.D. dissertation in maths on electron microscopy at the University Eindhoven. She creates installations, performances and documentaries at the interface of art, technology and anthropology.  Ru has received grants from the Rijksakademie van Beeldende Kunsten Amsterdam, Mondriaan Fund en the Creatieve Industries Fund. Next to her project on edible earth, she is currently working on a project on the art, science and spirituality of the Maya calendar, and on a documentary about a patriotic military youth club in Moscow. Masha’s artistic research at NIAS is a continuation of her project Pimba. Closing the gap (http://www.masharu.nl/Pimba-Closing-the-gap), which is subsidised by the Amsterdam Fund for the Arts (AFK).

New artist-in-residence Masha Ru explores eating soil
Soil for oral use in Guatemala, known as 'pan de dios', i.e. 'bread of god'. The earth tablets are stamped with the images, often of a cross. The soil comes from the pilgrimage town of Esquipulas, and according to the vendors it is blessed. It is used as a medicine, as a food supplement, but, according to some sources, for spiritual cleansing as well.

Artist-in-Residence Fellowship

The artist-in-residence fellowship is a collaboration with the KNAW – Society of Arts, aimed at revitalising the links between sciences and arts. It offers talented artists working in the fields of music, design, dance, film, visual art, fashion, theatre or poetry an opportunity to work on a project within in an international and interdisciplinary academic setting. Previous artists-in-residence include Jan Rosseel, Arne Hendriks, Urok Shirhan and Arnold Hoogerwerf.