in collaboration w/ Prof. Dr. Vizma Nikolajeva, Laura Žorža, Māris Seņkovs, Edgars Bojārs
2021 / limestone + stories + signposts + website
Long before the arrival of humans, bees and trees, Earth was teeming with microorganisms. To this day, though invisible, most life on Earth is microbial. Even though bacteria, fungi and viruses are often thought of as agents of dirt and disease, most of them are crucial for the survival of humans and other creatures. They are pioneers of ecosystems, custodians of the atmosphere and ancestors of all multicellular life.
The project Microbial Runestones calls for an appreciation of this invisible part of nature. The vast majority of runestones (94%) are raised in honour of men and their achievements. Praiseful words were set in stone to commemorate these people for generations to come. The Microbial Runestones instead celebrate microbes that have laid the foundations for life as we know it and continue to maintain balance on planet Earth.
The five hand-carved stones are locally sourced and placed along a forest path in the Gauja National Park, each an ode to a microorganism species living in the locality. The represented organisms were selected in dialogue with microbiologists and a landscape ecologist. In conversation with the scientists, it became evident, that none of the microbes are what one might call “heroes”, rather, they all have an incredible influence on the environment, creative and destructive. Stories, introducing each species, their ecological role and history have been written together with scientists from the University of Latvia and can be read on signposts next to the stones and online.
1. The Gripsholm Stone, raised in honor of Harald, brother of Ingvar. Sweden, 11th century.
2. Oscillatoria Cyanobacteria, differential interference contrast (DIC) micrograph image.
Engraved verse on stone (lav-eng trans.): Creators of oxygen and ancestors of all plants - Cyanobacteria continue to sustain our lives with every breath we take
The smell of earth is an ancient language, uttered by Streptomyces
Supporting, nourishing and protecting one another
Complete we are, when living with Bifidobacteria together
In the forest, the sea, the air and even in you
Bacteriophages - all surounding maintainers of balance
Right here, under your feet - trichodermas - primordial caretakers and unifiers of plants, expand