Saturday, November 16, 2013

7 days till the Studio: Seed.Art.Lab Launch


Recently I was part of a Artist-in-residence program that brought  5 artists together to work with the Jump-start Program at Kelvin Grove Secondary College in Brisbane.


I wrote about it at the Homage to the Seed blog and he ought I'd post here something I wrote for the exhibition which started with the quoted above from Tom Waits from an interview with him in 2006.

This project really prompted me to think very deeply about the children inheriting this planet now and the silence of too many adults around the state of the planet. It must leave them asking a lot of questions quietly to themselves late at night if not elsewhere in their lives.

This is then what I wrote.


ITS GETTING HOT AROUND HERE : The Seeds and Bio-diversity story.

Artist Statement from Sophie Munns

In the 21st Century no longer can we take for granted continuation of life for thousands of plant species... including some of the 30,000 known edible species and countless other highly useful species we rely on. In fact we don't even know what remarkable seeds might be lost to us given that scientists are still discovering species, particularly in fragile Rainforest eco-systems. Certain plants have long been commodified for use as fuels, glues, plastics, fibres, textiles, papers, rubber, building materials, medications (traditional to bio-molecular), beverages... and the list goes on.
Chocolate and coffee lovers around the planet are waking up to the rude fact that their favourite of tropical crops does not like it getting hotter. This has demanded swift response from plant science, farmers and a growing sector of coffee and chocolate companies to shift focus from quick-growth profit margins to the crucial step of increasing sustainability in the way coffee and cacao crops are grown, delivered to market, and understood by the public... all in the effort to ensure these potentially endangered species are maintained for the long term. This story is repeated over and over with many other species we like to put on our tables.
Seed viability, the capacity of seeds to produce new life, is indeed a concern not always understood. Artist Residencies undertaken by Sophie Munns in Seed Bank Labs and Botanic Gardens since 2010 have led to ongoing exchanges with plant scientists, with access to an expanding field of scientific knowledge revealing precisely how changes in climate go on to impact the capacity of plants to survive in particular locations that for hundreds, even thousands of years, saw plants prosper in those very same regions.
All around the globe the up-scaling of research on complex impacts on plants and eco-systems is bringing out a plethora of profoundly significant material that rarely reaches a general public audience. Dispersing information to the broader public has become an increasingly important task for the Science community and all who recognise the difference quality education makes. This is without doubt a potent and invaluable role the Arts can play in aiding the communication of critical material to a wider audience.
Bringing ‘Seeds and Biodiversity’ to the Jump Start project the artist spent 4 sessions with a group of students examining key issues around Seeds and Biodiversity informed by current global research across Plant Science, Agriculture and related social, political and cultural issues. Students were given an overview of the role seeds have played across time, going back to the earliest known civilisations. We explored the cultural heritages of each individual in our group ... noting, wherever possible, links to family and ancestors from all over the globe and the unique relationship to plants and food growing they may have had or perhaps still have. We thought about how this shaped the cuisines and traditions we may have inherited or perhaps have some inkling of.
Also discussed was the extraordinary number of ways that humans work with seeds and plant material, use them for hobbies and leisure, or pursuits with artistic or cultural purpose. Crucially, we considered why seeds need our protection right now in order to ensure our own well-being into the future.
For inspiration the artist brought examples of her artwork, seed collections and items made from seed and plant material. Additionally we explored with work of two key artists ... Brisbane painter Robert McPherson’s series of bold graphic painted signage in large wall installations provided an ideal visual strategy and NY artist Keith Haring who rose to prominence in the 80’s for his strong grafitti style and extraordinary 'symbol + text' images.
The graphic work exhibited here may at first glance appear simple, even unsophisticated. Look further at the ideas and thoughts being expressed and a potent truth may be revealed. These year 7 students are emerging into a very different world than the one familiar to those currently in the driving seats of our communities, organisations and institutions. Thoughtful students can often see a different world to the one their elders see. They possess enthusiasm for wide-ranging questions given the opportunity, and its evident they may not think it’s smart leaving nature and the environment out of planning strategies and decision-making. A desire to discover more on the complex, often contradictory aspects of how our world is evolving is heightened wherever interest in ideas, research and sharing of thoughts is encouraged.
Given the young are inheriting a world slow to learn or act on changes already proven necessary its crucial they be able to explore and evaluate ideas and information. The case of Tobacco companies maintaining the fight to exist in the market-place despite conclusive medical science research and Govt public health campaigns demonstrate s clearly that where economics is concerned its up to each of us to question what the ads and headlines are telling us! Education has never been more vital if we want young people to be informed in taking on the challenge of climate change and the increasing call for sustainable practices that are effective, pragmatic and life-preserving.
The capacity to think creatively, to bring both passion and critical thinking to the finding of new solutions is championed in this program which recognises our future is here... that the thinkers and creators of the future are here in this room tonight!
Bravo to all the students taking part in JumpstART!
Sophie Munns wishes to thank the excellent JumpstART team for this unique and highly stimulating opportunity to engage with these young thinkers and creators before us. Their insights and efforts to navigate the changing conditions of this planet demand our encouragement, sustained interest and respect as we all learn what it means to tread more carefully around this home we all share. 




I've returned over the years many times to working with children of all ages for one reason or another. Teaching posts and substitute teaching for one, then there have been classes given due to requests from parents for quality lessons not so easy to come by these days.

Recently I had two very alert students come for a 4.5 hr intensive in the holidays .... drawing and thinking about plant science. This is the direction I intend to keep on with... small groups sessions with people of all ages, focused on seeds and biodiversity and ways to think and interpret this material visually.


More on that soon. For  now I am delighted to share a small image of my new glass cabinet for seed collections taking pride of place in the new studio.





Its a beauty! Even the colour I love.


And a reminder that if in this part of the world you are welcome to come along to the launch next weekend... contact me if you need to find out more.



Busy times... back soon. Go well everyone!



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Blogging for me is an extension of keeping a journal which I have done in various forms over the decades. The difference being this is not a closed book! I like that it offers an opportunity to explore that which concerns me as an artist and as an individual about living and participating in this vastly complex, unquestionably exciting yet unnerving time in human history. Through the blog I hope to increase the possibilties for cross-pollination which I believe can strengthen the sense of being part of something both personal and universal that is vital, expansive and refreshing.