Earthkinology I: Microscope for Noticing Lichens is a participatory public sculpture with integrated storytelling and a hand-made microscope with a magnifying capacity of 150 times that allows you to peak deeply into the depths of lichens living on trees all around the city. Earthkinology is a series of three place-based interactive public art installations made out of waste materials. The sculptures have embedded optical elements and audio storytelling that engage passers-by with the often-unnoticed characters within urban ecosystems. Serving as colourful “human bait”, the sculptures capture the attention of the busy public and direct it towards local ecological beings – lichen, lime tree or common roach fish, expanding the viewer’s perception of the city to include other ecological worldviews and providing a space for these ecological neighbours to speak to us. Through this diversion of attention and world expansion through storytelling, the project encourages the de-centralization of the human exceptionalism within the city bounds and stimulates the formation of interspecies kinship and empathy bonds with our more-than-human urban neighbours.

Made out of 3D printed  PET from waste plastic bottles and painted with second-hand wall paint and varnish

 The sculpture has been initially made for the graduate showcase of MA Material Futures and has been widely exhibited around Walthamstow and Hackney public spaces

More than half of the world’s population now lives in cities and by 2060 further 10% are projected to make the move. With this rapid metropolitan and industrial development, along with city dwellers’ increasingly frantic pace of life, urban nature has more often than not been either diminished or made invisible. The global experience of Coronavirus pandemic though has for once provided a different perspective, giving many the never taken before opportunity to explore their local bioregions. Citizens’ interests are slowly coming back to the nearby green. And as nature connected people are more prone to adopt pro-environmental empathetic behaviours, this comes as a hopeful step towards building a climate change resilient culture.  But how do we sustain and deepen this revived interest post-pandemic now that the pace of city life has picked up again?

 Earthkinology I is a participatory sculpture made out of composite waste materials that engages the public with the lichened beings of the city. Using an array of storytelling and sensory invitations, the experience asks the viewers to pause amidst their day, to take notice of fellow kin all around and explore what this anthropocentric world might look and feel like from their perspective.

 The project combines imaginary, backed up by science fact and traditional indigenous and ecological knowledge, to build up possible narratives from the perspective of other species, exploring new ways to access, bond and empathise with our more-than-human urban neighbours.

 Earthkinology is a grassroots movement masked by public entertainment encouraging new way of engaging and deepening of a collective sense of kinship with and connection to local natural ecosystems for the local public. The project is an effort towards further de-centering of the human exceptionalism so prevalent in our city culture with ambition to contribute to the much necessary shift towards interspecies relationship building and ecocentric ways of perceiving and being.

Lichens – Nature’s Pioneers, Elders and Symbiotic Collaborators

Lay down. Lay low. Now, get really really still. Attach yourself to one spot for a while, forget all the rattle. And in this newly settled stillness, come listen to the Earth with us. We are one of nature’s most ancient beings and we shall be your guide.. If you listen attentively, can you hear ever so slightly amidst the city rumbles, what the ever-present Earth is saying to you?

Once you start noticing us you will soon realise that we are everywhere. You thought it was you humans taking over the world? Our existence proclaims a more subversive point of view, it’s us who have colonised the city. But do not dismiss us as mere parasites, we are self-sufficient collaborative opportunists sprawling and crawling all over while never hurting others, but yet slowly getting on and taking over millimetre by millimetre, branch by branch and stone by stone. Growing in tandem with nature’s needs and rhythms, promoting ways of living that are beneficial and life-giving for all.


Earthkinology presented at Dutch Design Week 2021 as part of United Matters


Created & produced by

Alisa Ruzavina

Video by

Maël Hénaf

Photography by

Maël Hénaff

Engineering by 

Konstantin Busarev

Project Assistance:

Beam, Bryan o Ryan, Igor Ruzavin, Nikita Snegirjov