Heirloom manifests from a culmination of experiential research undertaken during an arctic-based residency programme and subsequently informed by a creative partnership with Irish Seed Savers Association.
In 2017, Doolin embarked on a research residency to Longyearbyen, Svalbard, an industrial frontier town located on a remote arctic archipelago midway between continental Norway and the geographical North-Pole; here, beneath the mountain permafrost, lies a backup collection of the world’s agricultural biodiversity, cryogenically preserved within the Svalbard Global Seed Vault. The Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations estimates that we have lost 75% of genetic diversity in crops since the 20th century. As risks from the climate crisis and global conflict escalate, seed banks have become increasingly considered precious resources that could one day prevent a worldwide food crisis.
Through a series of visual and digital-based installations, Heirloom considers the cultural significance of seed, from the political to the poetic, by exploring the human thread that articulates the connection between our past, present and future and places the humble seed as a profound nexus in the nature-culture relationship.
SeedCLOUD is an interactive sound sculpture comprising eight varieties of seed. Each bowl of seeds is embedded with an audio recording, accessible by enabling NFC (near field communication) on a mobile device. Viewers are invited to activate this digital seed library by positioning their mobile device over a bowl of seeds. Each variety of seed is linked to a narrator, telling a story in connection to that particular seed. There is also a wall mounted tablet and headphones supplied for anybody who cannot access the recordings via their personal mobile device. Viewers are welcomed to sit and listen to the audio work in the gallery.
SeedCLOUD is a piece I have developed over the last two years, influenced in some part by Covid 19, where I began investigating new ways of making and connecting during the lockdown period. The seeds represented in this work translate as catalysts for conversations contributed by researchers, scientists, journalists and conservationists who generously shared their time and thoughts for creation of this work.
Seedarium is a sculptural installation and community engagement project conceived by visual artist Rachel Doolin as part of the Heirloom project 2022.
The root word ‘arium’ comes originally from Latin ‘ārium’, a suffix employed to denote ‘a place for’, or ‘connected to’.
Seedarium is a sculptural installation that exhibits a collection of seeds within its core. The original idea for creating this work came to me while visiting the Sanctuary of the Virgen de la Esperanza in Calasparra, Spain, which translates as the ‘Sanctuary of Hope’. The Sanctuary of Hope is a place of worship housed in a cave that has been carved out of a facade of solid rock. Notionally, I drew comparisons between this cavernous place of worship and my interpretation of the Global Seed Vault in Svalbard, Norway, a subterranean ‘sanctuary of seeds’ sleeping beneath a permafrost mountain.
The seeds within the Seedarium are not presented for their hierarchical or scientific relevance, but rather represent a holistic connection to the individual who donated them. Over several months during the making of the work I received many packages of seeds, generously donated by gardeners, gatherers, growers, advocates and conservationists, both nationally and internationally. It is this collective collaboration, which invited the conscious act of gathering and gifting seeds for the project, that has directed and shaped the final work.
In essence, Seedarium represents a community archive comprising personal contributions of seeds and words, that encapsulate a collective ethos.