Sculpture in Context 2019 opens at National Botanic Gardens on Wednesday 4th September at 6pm.
The Botanic Gardens are transformed into a sculptural park with over 125 original artworks in a wide range of media and styles by Irish and international artists set in the beautiful context of the Botanic Gardens in Glasnevin.
For this year’s exhibition I collaborated with my sister Madeleine Hellier to create the Noah’s Ark of Seeds installed in context in the Plants for People bed in the Curvilenar Range Glasshouse.
This artwork is based on the Global Seed Vault in Svalbard – a secure seed bank on a Norwegian island in the remote Arctic Svalbard archipelago, about 1,300 kilometres from the North Pole. The vault holds a wide variety of duplicate samples or “spare copies” of seeds which are held in gene banks worldwide. The Svalbard Global Seed Vault’s mission is to provide a safety net against accidental loss of diversity in traditional gene banks earning it the name “the Noah’s Ark of Seeds”. At the last count, the vault held 983,524 samples representing 13,000 years of agricultural history. The vault can hold up to 4.5 million varieties of crop, with 500 seeds from each variety being stored. This amounts to a capacity of 2.5 billion seeds.
While the popular press has emphasised its possible utility in the event of a major regional or global catastrophe, it is also accessed when gene banks lose samples due to accident, equipment failures, funding cuts, and natural disasters. War and civil strife have a history of destroying some gene banks. The national seed bank of the Philippines was damaged by flooding and later destroyed by a fire; the seed banks of Afghanistan and Iraq have been lost completely. Conversely, the vault itself is entirely without any political borders with seeds from North Korea being stored next to those from South Korea, and the seeds from the Middle East being preserved side by side.
This artwork acknowledges the crucial role of conservationists such as the Global Seed Vault, and indeed the National Botanic Gardens, in preserving crop diversity for future generations and restoring natural indigenous food supply to those countries requiring it most.
Artwork: Noah’s Ark of Seeds,
Glass, steel, glass bottles, perspex, seeds, plaster, MDF, 170cm x 50cm x 50cm, 2019