The world’s crop diversity is in danger and the international community has responded by establishing the Seed Vault, an idea that dates back to the 1980s, a secure facility that provides safety and assurance to future generations by protecting a catalogue of seeds.  The Seed Vault became a practical possibility only after the International Treaty on Plant Genetic Resources, an agreed international legal framework for conserving and accessing crop diversity, was put into force.  The Seed Vault is the world’s largest seed bank, built near Longyearbyen, Norway, on Spitsbergen Island.  On its inauguration day in 2008, the Vault received shipments of nearly 100 million seeds, ‘back – ups of the planet’s extant food crop seeds, which are now protected by a structure designed to withstand a nuclear bomb.  All of the donated seeds remain the property of the country or institution that made the donation and can be redeemed by that country or institution in the event of an emergency.  The Seed Vault is emblematic of forward thinking, consideration of the needs of future generations and the unity of the world all of which contributed to the inspiration for the artist, Dyvke Sanne, who designed the public art piece in the Vault’s entranceway.

The Vault’s facade is covered by Norwegian artist Sanne’s artwork.  In an interview in The Believer, Sanne said about the project: The seeds in the Vault are “copies of diversity which craves a cyclic repetition of treatment, rather than a steady faith in the selected original and linear progress…”.   Sanne believes that the mirrors she used in her public art piece at the entrance to the Vault, “…play a double roll.  They both throw the mirrors back and make it into numerous fragments that are being picked up by the different angles of the mirrors.  The reflecting images all become the same: different, but with the same value.  In this fragmented throwback, we see the movement of our own thinking.  Our reflections blend with those of others, and come back as variant repetitions.  When I have used mirrors in my works before, or shadow images that act as simplified copies of an original, it is to investigate exactly this, the relationship between us and the other, me as an original, and a copy of you at the same time.  The craving for the ‘one,’ the original that we can blindly trust in, is a ghost that we are carrying with us.”  Sanne’s work with mirrors and shadow art is why she was commissioned to create the entryway to the Seed Vault and although, she knew little of the importance of the structure prior to the commission, she quickly understood the significance and allowed it to affect her art.  “I was amazed when I realized how little I knew about how global agriculture actually works and who has the power there…though I see the sad need for the Vault, I believe in it mostly as a signal.”  Her art has helped to create a physical signal to the Seed Vault, elevating this marriage of art and activism.

Although the development of the Seed Vault is a significant milestone alone, the Norwegian decision to enhance the structure with public art, further shows the mutual benefits in art and activism when united for an important cause.  The question becomes, what significant food or agricultural activism with inspire artistic expression in 2009?  Thoughts?

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