WWI Chromatography ‘Battleland’ Project

Battleland seeks to represent contemporary landscapes from rejuvenated World War One battlefields along the Western Front.  Soil and flower samples were collected in order to create organic chromatographs to represent traces of matter that are otherwise dormant and unseen. The artworks seek to highlight the fate of many thousands of fallen soldiers that still reside in the soil.  

The chromatographs were created using a soil quality technique developed by German scientist Ehrenfried Pfeiffer (1899-1961).  His  intention was to analyse the organic compounds of soil, flora and fauna for the purposes of agricultural quality testing.  The process uses a dilution of silver nitrate as a photosensitive base for the circular filter papers. The secondary organic material is soaked in sodium hydroxide and the process is repeated. Finally, the filter paper is exposed to sunlight in order for the characteristics of the sample to appear.