Maria Thereza Alves

 
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Seeds of Change: Marseille, 2009

Video, 11:59 min.
Color, sound

Seeds of Change is an ongoing investigation by Alves on ballast flora in the port cities of Europe. Material such as stones, earth, sand, wood, bricks and whatever else was economically expedient was used as ballast to stabilise merchant sailing ships according to the weight of the cargo. Upon arrival in port, the ballast was unloaded, carrying with it seeds native to the area where it had been collected. The source of these seeds can be any of the ports and regions (and their regional trading partners), involved in trade with Marseilles. Alves, researched the archives in Marseilles to determine where ballast was unloaded. She then took earth samples from these sites and potted the soil so that the ballast seeds could germinate.

Seeds contained in ballast soil may germinate and grow, potentially bearing witness to a far more complex narrative of world history than is usually presented by orthodox accounts. Although they have the potential to alter our notions of the identity of place as belonging to a defined bioregion, the historical importance of these seeds is rarely acknowledged. The Seeds of Change project is, therefore, designed to question those discourses that define the geographical and ‘natural’ history of place: At what moment do seeds become ‘native’? What are the socio-political histories of place that determine the framework of belonging?

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