Steeped in Exploration is a socially engaged art project aimed at creating space for dialogues around exploring the local, science, public involvement, ecological issues, community building, artists sensibilities, bringing criticality to a space, and dissecting the systems that make up our everyday.
Steeped in Exploration is the communal making and drinking of tea from local plants. The transformation of cow manure from local farms into energy (methane) through a methane digester is what boils the water, and the tea that is made is from local edible plants collected on public outings. This participatory intervention questions our current systems of living, at the same time creates an opportunity for others to participate in the (re)imaging of our world.
The Blue and Yellow methane digester is an anchor and catalyst for creating new possibilities of social interactions while questioning existing ones. Digesters are used all over the world to cook and light spaces. Anaerobic digestion is a series of processes in which microorganisms break down biodegradable material in the absence of oxygen and release methane, which can be burned to heat water for tea. This public decentralized heat generation provides context and frames the conversation for exploring the landscape and collecting edible plants. This curiously simple, yet mystifying technology, questions global issues, at the same time creates local responses to issues of sustainability and lifestyle choices.
Investigating edible plants for tea, revolves around conversations and knowledge brought by local people during the public outings, making the invisible visible, which completes the piece. Foraging and making tea communally asks us to depart from the usual avenues of consumeristic culture and open ourselves up to a more unscripted and informal way of interacting. These actions of collecting plants from the landscape and the rituals of making tea become something much more critical, visual, and participatory, while creating a moment to take a fresh view of the landscape and the people we live with.
The building of Steeped in Exploration is a collaboration between a local rietdekker (roof thatcher), welder, scientists, artists and members of the community, which helped further conceptualize the project and bring it to a more poignant final stage.