On the Wimmera plains harsh sun greys the timber cladding of the enormous freezer that is the Australian Grains Genebank (AGG); a storehouse of knowledge and seeds for the development of the next generation of food. Half a world away, deep in a mountain, on an island north of the Arctic Circle lie the keys for survival of the world’s food supply. The Svalbard Global Seed Vault, a highly secure facility cradles the genetic building blocks of all of the world’s plant-based foods.
In 2014, AGG deposited 7,143 grass, pulse, grain and legume seed samples within the Svalbard Global Seed Vault, including samples from 943 indigenous plants, distant relations to the world’s current crops and collected from Northern Australia including the Kimberley, Arnhem Land and Cape York.
To ensure this credit for our future, AGG stores and documents the life of our seeds through long-term cold storage, germinating, trial crops, measuring and recording. Their knowledge grows to be shared with plant breeders and farmers working with a changing climate. In responding to the science and purpose of AGG, Dave Jones and Steven Rhall have brought a different kind of knowledge and skill, arising from their divergent creative practices. The artists have addressed its significance and presence within the regional landscape as well as in the imaginations of young people who stand to inherit both the debt of declining plant diversity and AGG’s inspiring legacy. Steven Rhall, a Melbourne-based Taungurung man, is an interdisciplinary artist whose practice grows from documentary photography. Rhall responded to the site, staff and work of the AGG after a residency at the facility in March 2015. Natimuk-based animator, Dave Jones collaborates with students from the local primary school and the AGG to illuminate our farming future. Through a series of animations, sharing the thoughts of our future farmers, these stored seeds come to life to revegetate the Wimmera.
Commissioned and presented by HRAG and CCP as part of ART+CLIMATE=CHANGE 2015, Climarte Festival.