2010 (prod. 2009 – 2014), ed. of 100, 40 pages (plus a 26-page sewn insert), 29 x 21 ¾”, inkjet-printed, color, on self-adhesive matte paper, varnished with UV-blocking clear matte acrylic and attached to selected soil and soil supplement bags split into bifolds and side-stitched. The factory-printed surfaces of these bags—backs and fronts—also function as pages, displaying promotional artwork and product information. Hand bound to ⅜” rusted rebar spine attached by brass posts to covers of scavenged tent canvas and pond liner hemmed with baling wire. Bags, canvas and pond liner came from Humboldt County, California, marijuana growing operations between 2007 and 2010. The first 30 books are issued in a 31 ½ x 24 ¾ x 2″ slatted Southern Humboldt County-origin, Douglas-fir and cotton canvas box. Copies of dirt are offered to all collectors.
The plastic bags used for the pages of dirt map a history of soil and soil supplement usage in Southern Humboldt pot-growing. Both the book’s first and last page present the iconic design of the most common soil supplement bought and used by Southern Humboldt pot-growers over the decades: Stutzman Farms Sup’r Green 3-2-2 Chicken Manure Fertilizer. The book’s other factory-printed bag designs, which are interspaced and face the inkjet-printed pages fixed to the bags’ inner and back blank sides, cycle through a range of ready-mixed varieties of soil, high-tech soil formulas for indoor growing and camouflaged bags for outdoor growing.
dirt opens with a full page containing only the words: “illicit marijuana farms in the fertile hills around Garberville.” These words were enlarged directly from their rough microfilm source, a reproduction of a front page San Francisco Chronicle article dated August 24, 1977, titled “$1 Million Raid of Humboldt Pot Farms,” one of the first two major media accounts of Northern California marijuana production. Beginning by challenging this early journalistic cliché, dirt’s subsequent pages continue using impressionistic collage to explore soil and working with soil in Southern Humboldt County. Among other elements, the author arranges original writings, presentations from USDA scientists, a facsimile of pages from the last print edition of the USDA soil survey of Southern Humboldt geographies, published in 1965, pot-growing family’s notebooks, newspaper reportage and original song material about a killing triggered by an argument over soil.
The book’s front canvas cover and all its printed pages (except one) are marked by sweeping coils of paint—white on the cover, gray on the pages. These lines pass across and around the book’s gathered artifacts and writings. Their loose arches echo assorted schematic plans for pot-garden irrigation from drawings taken from the above mentioned pot-growing family’s notebooks (reproduced throughout dirt). One small irrigation diagram was enlarged to fill the entire penultimate printed page of dirt and notably is the only printed page not to feature any painted lines across its surface. On the page opposite this diagram is a facsimile reproduction of a different notebook: two open, spiral-bound and lined sheets show a handwritten account of the making of dirt. Unlike the irrigation diagram itself, this page of self-description has been marked with swirling painted lines.
The tent canvas of the front and back covers was also scavenged from Southern Humboldt pot-growing scenes. Another direct material quotation from the pot-growing life is a piece of pond-liner set into the back cover that previously had pot plants growing on it. Mineral and soil traces left by spills and water flowing from the bottoms of plant pots remain in dusty crystalline structures across its surface. The layers of salts and other deposits present to the reader material traces highlighted into a visual abstraction of the history of growing pot in dirt, directly communicating how the book’s aesthetic life seeks to reflect a real history of working with dirt.
Collections: 2010 – Getty Museum and UC Berkeley, Bancroft Library acquired a pre-series release copies of dirt. 2013 – Rare Books Collection, U.S. Library of Congress and 2014 – UCLA’s Louise M. Darling Library acquired the book.