May 4, 2009

posted by Meredith Kooi

I guess the world is being taken over by zombies, or, rather, an infatuation with them.  It said so in the Tribune.  Zombies everywhere!  Today I read two articles about zombies.  Both being sorts of social commentaries, but one being more dire than the other.  Claire Pentecost’s essay, “Fields of Zombies,” produced for the exhibition Companion Planting for Social and Biological Systems:  agriART at George Mason University, talks about zombie seeds, zombie scientists, and zombie artists.I find this article to be particularly timely with the first farmers’ markets opening for the season this past weekend.

Pentecost talks about the seed bank in Svalbard, Norway.  The Svalbard Global Seed Vault is a library of sorts of seeds, but no one is there to browse the stacks.  It is there in case of a global meltdown, basically – for food if there ever happens to be none.  She compares this framework of keeping seeds safe with that of Vandana Shiva’s seed collective project, Navdanya.  This project facilitates seed sharing with farmers and encourages seed saving, cultivation, and conservation. In comparing the two, the Svalbard bank seems totally sterile – seeds locked up with no farmer interaction.  How bizarre?  How does this framework keep our seeds, and thus food, safe?  Can the seeds turn into seed zombies?!  Where would we be then when the zombies do come to eat our brains?!  Could a simple push of a button activate an automon to fix the problem?  I don’t think so.  Pentecost points out that a framework that promotes an open-source sharing and exchange could survive the fall-out because there would be a greater dispersal of knowledge and seeds amongst real living people – not zombies.

She relates these contained and isolated seeds to that of the artist.  By who or what is the artist driven?  Is it the art market? the museum? or something else?  Have we become like the scientists compromising themselves to secure funding from these private corporations that dictate how seeds are produced, how food is grown, and who gets to partake?  Or, can we remain like Shiva’s project that encourages an open-source exchange between us all?  The art market cannot be the end for us artists.  It cannot be the means either.  Artists must refuse to be zombies – unless we are bitten and become one unintended.

You can find the essay “Fields of Zombies,” by Claire Pentecost – produced for the exhibition Companion Planting for Social and Biological Systems:  agriART at George Mason University, April 21 – May 15, 2009 on the exhibition’s website: http://flawedart.net/agriart.