Call for Entries: BiodiverSEEDy Seed Vault Exhibition
April 12 - April 17
The Svalbard Global Seed Vault operates as a global backup for the seed collections of genebanks from all around the world. Located deep inside a mountain on the artic island of Svalbard it currently holds over 900,000 different frozen samples of crop seeds. While this is an important global resource for crop biodiversity conservation, the practice of freezing seeds in genebanks and storing genetic sequences in databases as a way to conserve agricultural biodiversity renders the connections seeds have to farmers, ecosystems and cultures invisible. It also makes it difficult to remember and value the important role that these diverse socio-ecological contexts and farmers play in creating and conserving agrobiodiversity.
To honor the social and ecological interconnections that have created seed biodiversity and the importance of farmers for keeping agrobiodiversity alive, the biodiverSEEDy project is organizing an exhibition to remind the world of the connections these frozen seeds have to history, context and culture.
Artists participating in the exhibition are asked to explore the interrelationships of agricultural seeds with personal and family relationships, culture and/or ecology. They are asked to create work that addresses these interrelationships and speaks to seeds as a metaphor of a life carrying vessel - not only the life of the plant, but also the breadth of interconnected social and biological lives of agricultural landscapes.
The works will first be displayed in the arctic city of Tromsø, Norway and a select number of artists will be sponsored to attend and speak about their work, as well as be featured in a short video documentary. At the end of the exhibition in Tromsø, there will be a closing reception in which the artworks will be sealed inside boxes - the same generic black plastic boxes (60x40x28cm) that are used to store the seeds in the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. The following day, the artists and works will travel to Svalbard where the sealed boxes of artworks will be delivered for permanent “interment” in the abandoned coalmine (Mine #3), located beside the vault and the source of its original inspiration.
In doing this, the initiative seeks to establish a unique museum for the forgotten stories of seeds that is not unlike an Egyptian tomb. In ancient Egypt, the mind of the individual (Ka or Akh) was conceived as a living entity,which could be contained in the artworks preserved in the silence of the tomb and available for invocation to provide guidance. One of the objectives of the exhibition is that these artworks – through the stories they contain – may preserve the presence of people, ecology and culture alongside the world’s largest collection of frozen seeds deep inside this arctic mountain, and thereby also be available to provide guidance for generations to come.
The mine site is currently open for tourists to be guided through and also used by the Nordic Genetic Resources Centre as the site for their 100 year seed experiment. It has also recently been approved as the site for the arctic world archive for storing data on film.
Sowing Science & Art for the Conservation of Crop Biodiversity The conservation of agricultural biodiversity is essential for food security and the resilience of agricultural systems in the face of change. Currently there are two main models for this:
1. In situ (on site) approaches that seek to conserve and generate agricultural biodiversity through the ongoing cultivation, selection and saving of seeds from different varieties on farms in their ecological context.
2. Ex situ (off site) approaches in which seeds, genes or DNA from different varieties is catalogued and frozen in controlled contexts within genebanks for potential future use and development by researchers and plant breeders.
The biodiverSEEDy project is an academic research project interested in both models. It seeks to:
a) Better understand bio-cultural challenges facing crop biodiversity conservation
b) Articulate and apply strategies to address these challenges using transdisciplinary research
c) Explore the nature and relation of in situ and ex situ approaches
d) Experiment with the space between art and science as a way of supporting the conservation of agricultural biodiversity
- Enhance international recognition of the importance of agricultural biodiversity conservation.
- Increase public and policy awareness of the interconnections between history, ecology and culture in the generation and maintenance of seed biodiversity
- Value the important role that farmers play as developers and guardians of seed diversity for the common heritage of humanity
- Highlight the need to enhance interconnections between in situ and ex situ forms of biodiversity conservation
- Call for increased financial support for farmers cultivating diverse and traditional varieties of crop plants for their significant work in seed biodiversity conservation
- Encourage citizens to collaborate in agricultural biodiversity conservation by requesting and buying heirloom, traditional and diverse varieties of crop plants