Terra Xenobiotica

Humans have an ambiguous relationship to the ground, often identifying and personifying with the soil of their ‘homeland’, and depending on its fertility to survive – and yet, all too often, treating it as mere dirt. This neglect is more extreme in technological zones, not only in industrial areas, but in spaces of communication and transportation. In her new artistic research Terra Xenobiotica Saša Spačal explores soil life at airports. “Toxins are seeping into the ground, creating unfamiliar lands that call for different kinds of stewards – the ones who navigate and nurture, rather than gatekeep or extract” states Spačal. “As humanity remains locked in an ongoing cycle, a holding pattern of take-offs and landings, the notion of a final landing lurks in an unimaginable distant future.”

The installation Eternity Scanner, based on a residency at the Rillig Lab for Plant Ecologies at Freie Universität Berlin, invites the public to explore how pollutants, especially Perfluoroalkyl and Polyfluoroalkyl Substances (PFAS) such as Teflon, so called ‘forever chemicals,’ permeate the soils of airports. Essential in the art piece are 85 soil chromatograms developed from earth gradually polluted by increasing amounts of PFAS, making up Gradients of Eternity, a database created as first of many to train an AI neural network to recognise PFAS pollution on soil chromatograms, and metaphorically symbolising the 85 years since PFAS were first accidentally discovered. Visitors are encouraged to choose a soil chromatogram and place it on the Eternity Scanner, which acts as a contemporary oracle. “The directive is clear and compelling; our only requisite action is to attune ourselves to the scanner’s perpetual soundscapes” remarks the artist. Powered by AI, the scanner reads the chromatogram, producing a sonification of the information it contains, acting as a clarion call for a new generation to come forward and regard the land not as dominion, but as kin.


The film Holding Patterns, written by Saša Spačal and cultural theorist Alison Sperling, creates a dystopian near future scenario where airports still exist but without function, exploring the matter of ground and soil pollution. Essential for Spačal is the “question of grounding, of being grounded, and of groundedness in the unique space of Berlin’s iconic defunct airport at Tempelhof Field”. The film examines the complex and varied epistemologies involved in modern concepts of travel and identity, proposing a new model of responsibility, care, and stewardship.

Regine Rapp & Christian de Lutz

Terra Xenobiotica, 2023
Saša Spačal

Scientific Consulting: India Mansour, Institut für Biologie, Freie Universität Berlin
Installation and programming: Dmitry Morozov
Assistance: Flore Wormskamp
Storytelling: Alison Sperling
Film Editing: Maja Andlovic
Sound Composition: Ah!Kosmos
Text and Curation: Regine Rapp and Christian de Lutz

Artwork Production and Artistic residency: Art Laboratory Berlin
Artistic Residency and Scientific Support: Rillig Lab | Plant Ecologies, Institut für Biologie, Freie Universität Berlin
Support: Berlin Senate | Department of Culture
Exhibition Support: Slowenisches Kulturzentrum – SKICA Berlin, Technische Universität Berlin, Berlin Science Week
Exhibition Photos: Tim Deussen
Solo exhibition
Terra Xenobiotica, curators Regine Rapp and Christian de Lutz, Art Laboratory Berlin, Berlin, Germany [11.11.2023 – 2.2.2024]

Terra Xenobiotica
Saša Spačal
Solo Exhibition

Art Laboratory Berlin