Programmed by Charlène Dinhut
Deep beneath Arctic permafrost, seeds from all over the world are stored in the Svalbard Global Seed Vault should disaster strike. Wild Relatives starts from an event that has sparked media interest worldwide: 2012, an international agricultural research centre relocated from Aleppo to Lebanon due to the Syrian Revolution turned war and began duplicating their seed collection from the Svalbard back-ups. This transaction of seeds between the Arctic and Lebanon, unfolds a matrix of human and non-human lives; teasing out tensions between state and individual, industrial and organic approaches, climate change and biodiversity, witnessed through the journey of these seeds.
Artist Jumana Manna films a ballet of hands, arms and journeys to depict the work of the Syrian Research Centre that’s been displaced to Lebanon. Once the seeds have been duplicated, the institution returns the stocks to Svalbard’s Global Seed Vault, the modern-day sci-fi site that conserves seeds from all around the world under the Arctic permafrost.
Wild Relatives illustrates the connection between this extraordinary transfer – it’s the first time ever that the reserves have been used – and the lives that mirror the Centre’s work. The human beings carrying out the research and work have also been displaced. Although it’s now a time of reconstruction – dance, even – and although the film has a gentle, meditative pace as it portrays the many skills put to use, it’s also a testimony to the tensions between industrial and organic approaches to farming, the flaws of agricultural policies and, on the horizon, it raises the question of future disasters.
Programmer and curator