Urban Tumulus

Jessica Marshall E., Michael and I made 12,500 pounds of adobe bricks for the Urban Tumulus installation this past July. Earth, sand, straw, water. Each air-dried brick measures 5 inches by 10 inches by 16 inches, and weighs 50 pounds. I don’t know how heavy they were when they were wet and newly unmolded. We made 250 bricks. The weather was damnably hot, bright, and dry, the hottest week of the summer, with temperatures ranging from 98 to 103 degrees. Making adobe is brutal physical labor, each day we needed to make between 35 -45 bricks. At the end of each day we were trashed. All of us who were involved with the project have a deep appreciation for the labor that goes into building an adobe dwelling.

The reddish adobe bricks are made up of Metro Atlanta ’s red clay subsoil. The sanitary mulch was generated from Atlanta Metro yard waste. The Wild Grasses were collected from sidewalks in southwest Atlanta. Drought hardened red clay picked and shoveled and full of debris: broken glass, bits of tiles, broken pieces of rusty metal.

Out of the 12,500 pounds of brick we made, we only used 11,000 pounds of adobe to line the corridor of the Urban Tumulus. At six foot two inches tall, 10 inches wide and about 21 feet long, its not enough adobe to build a one room house. Three pillars, or buttresses, provide additional support in the back. It amazes me how heavy earth is, how Solid. Earth feels reassuring and secure under our feet. Some phrases reflect the reassuring aspect of our relationship to soil. We are “on solid ground.” We can be “well-grounded.” We have “grounds” for a belief, an opinion or theory. The smell of newly tilled soil is wholesome, even comforting. When earth is under foot, all is well.

The tumulus is not underfoot.

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