In a deep cavern carved inside a frozen mountain on an island high up in the Arctic lies the most biodiverse room in the world. The Svalbard Global Seed Vault holds over one million samples of seeds from all around the world. The Vault serves as a ‘back-up’ in case disaster (e.g. fire, flood, civil war) strikes the genebanks holding the original collections. However, the Seed Vault contains no information about the cultural significance of seeds; no stories about how they are cultivated, by whom, for what purposes, using what rituals, etc. The seeds are frozen in isolation from all the social practices, ecological relations, and cultural histories that give them life.
The Seed Cultures Initiative seeks to create an archive of visual artworks to help conserve the cultural heritage of seeds. Its aim is to celebrate the way seeds live within vast webs of interrelations and to honor the fertile bonds between biological and cultural diversity in agri-food systems.
The Seed Cultures Archive website brings together images and projects from artists working across genres and disciplines, who place seeds in their focus. This is to showcase exceptional work exploring the life of seeds through art and culture, and to provide a platform for connection and network building. The website includes images and project statements from a range of international artists engaged with the culture and aesthetics of seeds.
The seed confronts the very kernel of our human value systems. I became intrigued in the material and immaterial quality of seeds especially following my relatively recent discovery of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, “the safest place on earth”, in 2016. Indeed this discovery has sparked a series of paper and golden seed vaults disguised as golden monochrome paintings that can be planted in face of disaster. Each work has the potential to yield plants of diverse colors and sizes specifically curated to nourish the soil and feed the bees in the area where the work is exhibited.