Maria Thereza Alves, Seeds of Change: New York—A Botany of Colonization


November 3, 2017 - November 27, 2017

Arnold and Sheila Aronson Galleries

Opening Reception: Friday, November 3, 6:45 pm - 8:00 pm

Related Public Programs

Vera List Center Prize for Art and Politics 2016-2018: International Biennial Prize Conference
Friday, Nov 3, 12-8:30 pm and Saturday, Nov 4, 12-5:30 pm

Theresa Lang Community and Student Center

55 West 13th Street, 2nd floor, Room I-202

New York, NY

During the conference, in dialogue with an international group of writers, scholars, and other artists, Maria Thereza Alves and the finalists consider key topics resonant with their projects, such as the obscured histories of sovereignty and decolonization; anthropogenic movements of soils; migration and environment; media languages and self-representation; everyday infrastructures and labor; as well as the dynamics of the right to visibility and/or invisibility.

The panel discussions survey the field of art and social justice by mining the exemplary projects of the Vera List Center Prize Finalists for their capacity to make legible urgent issues around the world, and to model ways in which to successfully address them. Each exchange includes writers, thinkers and scholars from the arts, humanities, social and natural sciences, and respondents from The New School community who also moderate the conversations.

The Friday panels are centered on Maria Thereza Alves’ prize-winning project Seeds of Change and culminate in a keynote conversation between her and a noted scholar. This is followed by the presentation of the Vera List Center Prize for Art and Politics 2016-2018 to Alves and the opening of her exhibition Maria Thereza Alves, Seeds of Change: New York—A Botany of Colonization. On Saturday, the focus is on the projects of the finalists, and the ways theirs resonate with Alves’ Seeds of Change.

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Recognized for her long-term project Seeds of ChangeMaria Thereza Alves, Seeds of Change: New York—A Botany of Colonization, is Alves’ first presentation of the work in the Americas. This iterations focuses on flora local to New York. Alves’ Seeds of Change studies colonialism, slavery, and the global commerce of goods through the lens of displaced plants in ballast—the waste material historically used to balance ships in maritime trade. Dumped in ports at the end of passages, ballast often carried “dormant” seeds collected from its place of origin that remained in the soil for hundreds of years before germinating and growing. Alves identifies the seeds as she looks at how plants trace the displacement of lands and people from the transatlantic slave trades.

The exhibition will feature a living installation or a “greenhouse” of more than 60 ballast plants, a list of flora and maps that highlight the species, and areas filled in with ballast in the New York region. Alves selected two sites and communities for propagating the seeds for the exhibition. As the home of the VLC, The New School offices and dormitories were an obvious choice and in June their faculty, staff, and students began growing ballast flora for the exhibition. The second location,
Pioneer Works, is a primary site of ballast and is activated through participation with their community youth (YG2—Young Gardeners 2) who began propagating ballast seeds this July. These developing gardens and gardeners are the cornerstone of the Alves’ Prize exhibition. In the summer of 2018, the work will be re-sited at the three partner organizations around New York including
The High Line, Pioneer Works, and Weeksville Heritage Center.

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