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Live Demonstration: Lucas Ihlein, Soil Carbon Testing with the Yeomans Carbon Still

Tuesday 12 February 2019, 10am–3pm
Wednesday 13 February 2019, 10am–3pm
Thursday 7 March 2019, 10am–3pm
Friday 8 March 2019, 10am–3pm
Thursday 21 March 2019, 10am–3pm
Friday 22 March 2019, 10am–3pm
Free entry

During Shapes of Knowledge, Allan Yeomans and Lucas Ihlein worked on site at MUMA, testing soil samples using the Yeomans Carbon Still. The public were invited to see the machine in action and participate in conversations with the inventor and the artist about soil and the carbon economy.

How it Works
The Yeomans Carbon Still has slowly evolved into a very accurate device for measuring changes in soil carbon levels. It can now test individual samples weighing up to two-thousand grams with one-gram accuracy. In the Carbon Still, an air flow at a preselected temperature passes directly through the sample material. Intermittent contact between soil and air seems thus assured. A complete test takes about three hours. In the unit the central oven is decoupled for weighing from both its heating elements and air supply. This allows a soil sample to be weighed without its removal from the heating oven.

In the Carbon Still a sample is heated to 110 degrees Celsius and weighed. It is then heated to 500 degrees Celsius at which temperature all contained organic matter is completely burnt off. It is then reweighed. The difference is the Loss On Ignition (LOI) for the sample. The LOI value is directly proportional to the CO2-e (carbon dioxide equivalent) sequestered into the soil. In a future carbon economy, farmers must be paid for sequestering carbon from the atmosphere into their soils through regenerative agriculture—however there is much work to be done to create the technical, economic and governance systems to enable such financial incentives to be implemented.

Lucas Ihlein is a Wollongong-based artist and educator, who holds learning at the very centre of his artistic practice, understanding his artworks (prints, film and text) as tools to satisfy his own desire to learn. Importantly, he opens up the processes of his learning so that the audience may also be present in knowledge production, as it unfolds rather than after-the-fact.

Ihlein’s projects tend to explore the relationship between socially engaged art, agriculture and environmental management. He is a founding member of artists’ collectives SquatSpace, Big Fag Press, and Teaching and Learning Cinema. Major exhibitions include The Yeomans Project (with Ian Milliss), Art Gallery of New South Wales (2013-14); Green Bans Art Walk, The Cross Arts Projects & Big Fag Press, Sydney (2011); In the Balance: Art for a Changing World, Museum of Contemporary Art, Sydney (2010); There Goes the Neighbourhood, Performance Space, Sydney (2009); The Bon Scott Project, Fremantle Arts Centre, Perth (2008); and Bilateral, Australian Experimental Art Foundation, Adelaide (2002). In 2010 Lucas completed a practice-based research PhD at Deakin University entitled “Framing Everyday Experience: Blogging as Art”, which won the Alfred Deakin Medal for best Doctoral Thesis in Humanities and Social Sciences. In 2015 Ihlein was awarded an Australia Council for the Arts Fellowship for Emerging and Experimental Arts. He is currently an ARC DECRA Research Fellow at University of Wollongong, Australia.

Lucas Ihlein participated in Shapes of Knowledge at Monash University Museum of Art, 9 February – 13 April 2019.

Allan Yeomans is the Managing Director of the Yeomans Plow Co, and author of the book PRIORITY ONE: Together We Can Beat Global Warming (2005). Allan’s main concern for the last thirty years has been the prevention of global warming and the halting of climate change. He sees this as the most urgent problem facing humanity this century. His invention of the Yeomans Carbon Still aims to contribute to the collective effort to draw down greenhouse gases from the atmosphere using agricultural soils as a carbon sink. In the mid-twentieth century, Allan worked with his father PA Yeomans on the development of the Keyline Design System for sustainable agriculture.

Image: The Yeomans Carbon Still. Photo by Lucas Ihlein, 2019