Doing What They Do Best

Kunstraum Memphis, Linz
May 1 – July 1, 2021

From a bird’s eye view, the man-made landscape resembles a patchwork carpet. Traces of agricultural activities cover the earth like a huge digital pattern. Human activities to cultivate, speed up cultivation and increase yields leave behind unnatural nature. The more cultivated a region, the more geometric the patterns become; irregularities and wild growth reveal abandoned places, clutter, poverty and anarchy.

In the exhibition Doing What They Do Best, Estonian artist Laura Põld explores land use, agricultural economy and the visible consequences of human activity on the Earth’s surface. One of the starting points of the exhibition is research by the first German-Baltic agricultural chemist Margarete von Wrangell (1877 – 1932) on plant nutrition, fertilisation and phosphate in the soil. Thoughts on terraforming, ecology and economy are combined in Põld’s works to form sculptures and landscape-models. She combines a variety of materials such as clay, yarn, wood, steel and found objects, using traditional craft techniques – from carpentry to carpet making.

The exhibition is accompanied by Lou Sheppard’s text “Family Matter”, which communicates with Põld’s objects on many levels. In precise, poetic language, it circles around creaturely movements, human and worm-like behaviours and material transformations. It winds snakelike from earthworms to compost, from the life-hungry devouring of nutrients down through the intestinal coils, into the cycle of the economy – and back. Originating (From the origin) in the mud back into the mire.

Põld: “I notice cycles in the behaviour of the materials. When working with textile or clay, I have to accept the agency of the material; we create an alliance. We intra-act, learn, and make together. Lou Sheppard wrote the text ‘Family Matter’ for this exhibition. I invite the visitor to read the text and connect with our common ways of thinking about the vitality of all matter – and its poetry. Many ideas – such as the motif of worms – have emerged in our weekly conversations.”


Graphic design by Jaan Evart

Photos by Marek Mäemets, Gerda Nurk, Laura Põld