On February 26, 2008, an official sanctuary was opened near the small town of Longyearbyen on the Norwegian island of Spitsbergen. It is accessed by a 100-meter-long corridor, carved into the sandstone of a mountain, and leads to three rooms of over 200 square metres. What treasure does his seclusion and the coolness of the surrounding permafrost protect from? Seeds ! More precisely, the seeds of more than a million species of plants from all over the world. The goal is to preserve the genetic diversity of food crops by placing seeds at the center of the project. This is also what the 104th exhibition in Paris “Seeds, exhibition!”, which combines artistic, educational and ecological dimensions in the framework of the scientific advice of botanists, Gilles Clément and Emmanuelle Bouffé. What can we see there?
First, an exhibition of more than 80 images of seeds, mainly from the collections of the National Museum of Natural History, photographed by Thierry Ardouin. Then, a mural of more than 22 square metres, a kind of biographical landscape produced for the occasion by Fabrice Héber, an artist also involved in environmental protection: he has been planting a valley of trees in Vendée for more than forty years and recently became an ambassador for the ONF -Agir Forest. Another exhibited artist, Doi An Nhan Duc, presented “The Parlor of Wishes”, in which thousands of seeds that are not darkened, that is, dispersed by wind, rotate, such as dandelion seeds, salsa, artichokes …
Finally, visual artist Jade Tang has combined seed and archeology in her creations. “Carpothèque”, one of his processes that will be seen in 104, consists of 27 borosilicate (pyrex, heat-resistant) glass tubes filled with food seeds. Carbotic? The word refers to carp science, that discipline of archeology that is concerned with plant remains, starting with seeds unearthed in geological layers of the past. These monuments provide information on the local flora, the ancient ecology of the sites, the agricultural practices, and the food and culinary practices of the disappeared communities. Moreover, seeds and other plant remains sometimes reveal the movement of certain species over vast distances through cultural contacts (trade, migration, etc.).
To aid them in their work, woodworkers have types of databases of preserved and classified seeds that serve as reference catalogs. It is the Revisited Seed Library presented by Jin Tang, the fruit of her research on the sites of urban preservatives, particularly in the suburbs of Paris. Where I thought the city’s past, of its inhabitants can be read through “metal”, stones, and pottery, I discovered with archaeologists that the plant is omnipresent and rich in lessons. Thus the idea of carpentry was born…
In the tubes, the seeds are in two states, dried or charred (the latter was during the formation of the pyrex), as an archaeologist could reveal, and calcification certainly betrays manipulation. The work thus becomes a tool, and even a guide, to traverse the centuries, from the advent of agriculture, more than 10,000 years ago, to the current emergence of the much-controversial hybrid seed.
The exhibition is official, our world and our civilization depend on the seed, “This wonderful mechanism, according to Gilles Clement, which is to ensure its durability with a seed that can have resistance over time, which we never imagine, and that is the peculiarity of the vegetable world.” Run there then. …Take some seeds.
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