There’s a boat mast filled with grain at the CUNY James Gallery and it’s on its way to Norway. From there, it’ll make its way to Jordan as a symbolic reverse migration. The installation is part of Left Coast: California Political Art, an exhibit celebrating contemporary artwork from “America’s edge.” The Seed Journey is an outgrowth of Oslo-based Flatbread Society’s large-scale public art program which includes a bakehouse and a demonstration grain field. The project is spearheaded by California-based Futurefarmers, a group of artists that spans the globe from New York to Turkey.
The Seed Journey is “imagined as a ‘rescue,’ and falls within a larger movement to protect the rights of small farmers,” says the artist group. “Propelled forward by wind and rising sea levels, this journey imagines food, and grains in particular, as a symbol of resistance in the wake of intellectual property rights as they relate to biological matter.” There are eight varieties of grains in the James Gallery silo and each is sourced with a specific story of rescue or resistance. Starting in 2017, a hundred-year-old sailboat will carry the ancient grains from Oslo to the Fertile Crescent in present-day southeastern Turkey. Along the way, the crew and cargo will make stops to meet members of the food commons movement.
The project comes on the heels of a broader grainshed revival and has particular relevance as consumers become more aware of grains, which until recently were an afterthought of the broader food movement. The artists are unearthing the stories behind plants we’ve long taken for granted and shining light on their origins through a literal journey back to the land. Futurefarmers sees this as an entry point for advancing new narratives and initiating change. “This disassembly is an important step in gaining insight in how grain moves from soil to seed, market and sea while finding new links between local networks and a more global complex of seed savers and stewards of the land.”
Want to visit the mast and read more about the grains? The James Gallery is free and open to the public Tuesday—Thursday 12:00—7:00 p.m., and Friday—Saturday 12:00—6:00 p.m. The exhibit, which runs through May 29, is accompanied by a print which includes the story of each seed. Futurefarmers will also host a discussion at the gallery on Thursday, May 14 at 6:30 p.m. And here’s a gorgeous video (also featured above) from the Flatbread Society about reviving a 2.5-meter rye.