SeedCLOUD is an interactive audio visual installation artwork 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.
The inspiration for this work began in 2017, during a research residency to Longyearbyen, an industrial frontier town situated in Svalbard, a remote archipelago located midway between continental Norway and the North Pole. It is the northernmost inhabited place to which one can travel via commercial airline, located some 78° North. Due to the extremity of its Northern location, Svalbard has no indigenous population, it does however have an unusual cultural history, all of which is rooted in the exploitation of nature of some kind. I was drawn to Svalbard upon reading an article in 2015 about the Global Seed Vault, a secured seed storage facility carved into the solid rock of the Plateau Mountain located in Longyearbyen. Here, buried within the mountain permafrost, the world’s largest seed collection is preserved, in a global effort to safeguard the future of agricultural diversity in the face of natural or man-made disasters. While navigating the Arctic landscape of Svalbard I was intrigued by the fascinating dichotomies at play. In a place considered one of the last remaining wildernesses on earth, abandoned coal mines sit in opposing proximity of dying glaciers and a global storehouse of agricultural biodiversity is nestled beneath a barren landscape.
This fundamental experience led me to initiate a dialogue with Irish Seed Savers association. With the growing focus on climate action, reducing carbon footprint and striving for greater biodiversity and sustainability, Irish Seed Savers work addresses these areas by growing and making available collections of plant genetic resources, while capturing and understanding their adaptation as our environment and climate changes over time. It was during my initial exploratory conversations and experiences at Irish Seed Savers that I became cognizant of the significance of seed in connection to human culture.
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.
SeedCLOUD has been designed and produced by visual artist Rachel Doolin in collaboration with sound editor Richard Molloy, with webpage development by Liliana Zaharia.
Deirdre Morrissey is the Seed Bank Curator at Irish Seed Savers Association, Ireland’s only public seed bank, maintaining over 800 non-commercially available varieties of seed. In relation to seeds, the word ‘curate’ means ‘to care for and preserve’, this is the main focus at Irish Seed Savers Association whose primary objective is to protect Ireland’s food crop heritage for future generations while raising public awareness about the vulnerability of Irish agricultural biodiversity. Join Deirdre as she shares the seeds of her work and unrelenting passion, while encouraging us all to slow down, observe and reflect on the diverse life that surrounds us.
In this SeedCLOUD episode seedsman Greg Schoen discusses his work and friendship with corn mentor Carl Barnes, a heroic figure of Cherokee and Irish descent who generously bestowed his poignant philosophies and precious collection of Corn to Greg. In light of today’s industrial and agricultural paradigm of monocropping, GMO’s and seed patenting, Greg reflects on the bounty of genetic diversity our ancestral farmers and gardeners created, shared and handed down across generations. Join Greg as he invites us to contemplate the cultural and spiritual value of this inheritance, and to consider the human thread that transcends scientific or genetic significance.
In this SeedCLOUD episode, Anita Hayes, founder of Irish Seed Savers Association narrates the story of Nikolai Vavilov through Irish Seed Savers connection to the Irish Green Pea. The Irish Green Pea, is a variety of pea native to Ireland, which was repatriated by Irish Seed Savers from the Vavilov Gene Bank in the 1980’s. Dr Nikolai Vavilov was a Russian botanist and geneticist, and one of the pioneers of 20th century plant breeding. Join Anita as she recounts what she describes as “a very personal journey” serendipitously inspired by her connections with people and the Irish landscape.
The Syrian White Courgette variety was donated to Irish Seed Savers association by a Syrian refugee in 2010. In this SeedCLOUD episode, author and science journalist Matt Simon discusses his research relating to an article he wrote for wired magazine in 2020. The title of the article These Rare Seeds Escaped Syria’s War to Help Feed the World, narrates the story of Syria’s deposit and subsequent withdrawal of seeds from The Svalbard Global Seed Vault. Join Matt Simon as he recounts the story of how war and drought prompted scientists to act with great effort to rescue and reconstitute its precious collection of drought-resistant crop seeds.
Will Bonsall is a veganic farmer, author, environmental advocate and director of The Scattered Seed Project in Industry, Maine, USA. The Scatterseed Project, which was featured in the documentary Seed: The Untold Story, was started by Will Bonsall over 40 years ago. His vision was to grow a diverse array of crops in order to protect diversity and connect people with their horticultural heritage. Will states that the most sustainable place for preserving genetic diversity is in the horticultural landscape, the gardens and farms of the world. Join Will as he recounts his journey, beginning from his early career in the commercial mining industry, to becoming an influential figure in the rise of seed activism.
Debbie Gillies is the CEO of True Harvest Seeds based in Kilclief, Co Down, a conservation charity whose work encompasses the collection and preservation of Ireland's indigenous wildflower population. These collections are stored at their onsite seed bank and are made available to be revived for restoration or research, thus providing a national back up, where native populations may need to be restored in the case of an environmental crisis. In this SeedCLOUD episode Debbie discusses the importance of the conservation work undertaken at True Harvest seeds, while sharing her insights on the effects of climate change and seed importation on Iocal plant habitats.
This SeedCLOUD episode is narrated by Gioia Massa, a Life Sciences Project Scientist in Space Crop Production at Kennedy Space Center. Between 2014 and 2016 a Romaine lettuce variety known as ‘Outredgeous’ became the first crop to be grown and eaten in space by NASA astronauts via NASA hardware called the Veggie System. The Veggie concept is a simple low power system designed to grow fresh and nutrient rich food for NASA astronauts to supplement their diet for future space missions. Join Gioia Massa, as she analyses, reflects, and offers perspectives on the evolution of space farming, and the factors contributing to its future.
Ep. 8 - Sowing Seeds for the Future
Jennifer McConnell is a social researcher and Founder of Living Legacy. Jennifer developed an interest in food security from living in developing countries. Since 2021 Jennifer is researching food security in Ireland through her Masters in Applied Social Research with the University of Limerick. In this SeedCLOUD episode Jennifer discusses the subject matter of her research, stemming from a culmination of Jennifer’s professional experiences. Join Jennifer as she discusses the beginnings of her journey through to her current research into food sovereignty, seed security, and the importance of localised food production and how contributory factors such as climate change, war and convenience culture impact upon these systems.