What lies beneath? Soil from Hackney park forms part of new Tate Modern


A little bit of Hackney forms part of an exciting - and possibly surprising - new exhibition in the Tate Modern exploring city and nature which opened on Monday. 

A tonne of soil from the borough’s iconic Hackney Marshes has been transported to the famous gallery’s Turbine Hall where it makes up part of a huge installation called Empty Lot.

The sculpture, by artist Abraham Cruzvillegas, comprises two stepped triangular platforms, evoking a giant compass, holding a geometric grid of 240 wooden planters filled with compost and more than 23 tonnes of soil collected from parks and gardens across London.

Visitors will be able to explore the sculpture from underneath and above, and, according to the Tate, it is designed to provoke ideas of “chance, change, and hope”.

But, the question is, will anything grow from it?

“For the duration of the project, the soil will be lit by lampposts constructed by the artist using materials found in skips and building sites around Tate,” a spokesperson for the gallery said. “Nothing has been planted by the artist, but flowers, mushrooms, and other greenery may grow depending on what seeds or bulbs have found their way into the soil.”

Mexican Cruzvillegas is best known for creating sculptural works from local objects, some found, some bought. He’s also interested in so-called ‘seed bombing’ and ‘guerrilla gardening’ as well as ancient Aztec ‘chinampas’ - small grids of earth used to grow corn, peppers and tomatoes in the area that later became Mexico City.

 “Cruzvillegas explores ideas of unpredictability and hope, inviting visitors to see the sculpture changing from one week to the next,” the spokesperson for the Tate added. “In the middle of a busy commercial area of London, the ‘empty lot’ is a space where nothing is produced but where change might happen.”


Cllr Jonathan McShane, Cabinet Member for Health, Social Care and Culture, Hackney Council
We were happy to be involved in what could turn out to be an extremely interesting project.

Hackney Marshes is one of our best-loved natural assets. As well as being one of the most famous sporting facilities in Europe, it is also a Site of Metropolitan Importance for Nature Conservation and home to huge variety of floral and plant-life - who knows what may bloom from the soil provided!
Cllr Jonathan McShane, Cabinet Member for Health, Social Care and Culture, Hackney Council

Residents can see the exhibition daily for free between 10am and 6pm and until 10pm on Friday and Saturday, until April 2016. It forms part of a new series called the Hyundai Commission.

For more information, call: 020 7887 8888; visit tate.org.uk; and follow @Tate #EmptyLot