On the matter of seeds

An exhibition by Kilkenny native Christine Mackey opens in the Butler Gallery this Saturday.

An exhibition by Kilkenny native Christine Mackey opens in the Butler Gallery this Saturday.

‘Seed Matter and Other Stories’ is a multi-media exhibition of Mackey’s on-going social investigation between the micro/macro geographies of the ‘seed’ in an attempt to envision local ecological processes relative to global contexts.

‘Seed Matter and Other Stories’ merges historical documentation, ‘hearsay’ and contemporary agricultural practices by tracing the historical lineage of the Daniel O’Rourke pea (Pisum sativum), an Irish cultivar sourced from the Irish Seed Savers Association in Clare. This pea, which supposedly originated in Cork in the 1800s, found its way to America, Germany and Russia.

In Russia, seed samples of the Daniel O’Rourke pea have been held since 1921 at the Vavilov All-Russian Scientific Research Institute of Plant Industry in St Petersburg. This institute is the world’s first seed bank, and one of the world’s largest collections of plant genetic material. This pea fell into the hands of many plant breeders, one of whom was Joseph Sangster, who possibly bred the pea as ‘Sangster No. 1.’ in Lissadell Gardens, Sligo, where he worked as head gardener from 1903-1913.

For this exhibition, Mackey has playfully applied a range of taxonomic and museum display methods, enacted with live material, in an attempt to uncover the geo-political control of biological organisms, food sovereignty, land use and social justice – or, in the words of farmer Kevin Dudley, “whoever controls our seeds controls our food”.

Christine Mackey was born in Co Kilkenny and lives in north Leitrim. Her practice combines site-specific and public works, exhibitions, performance and art books. Mackey has exhibited nationally and internationally and is a recipient of numerous awards and artist residencies. In 2002, she graduated with an MA (Time Based and Performance Studies) at Dartington College of Art, England and in 1992 with a BA in Sculpture from the National College of Art and Design, Dublin, and was recently awarded a practice-based PhD at the University of Ulster, Belfast.