Future Seeds – Kew National Tree Seed Project

Watch my film Future Seeds: an adventure with wind, trees and people now. (Running time 21 minutes – join for as long as you like!) and my more recent film Superseeded (Running time 6 minutes 30 seconds).

Residency with Kew’s UK National Tree Seed Project

Between August and December 2019 I worked on a residency alongside staff and volunteers with the Royal Botanic Gardens Kew’s UK National Tree Seed Project . The Project, which was completed in March 2020, was a response to the increasing threats to the UK’s indigenous tree populations from development and agriculture, environmental change and imported pests and diseases. By collecting representative samples of seeds from stands of ancient woodland in each of the Forestry Commission Seed Zones, the aim is to capture the genetic diversity of all 76 native tree species whose seeds are suitable for long-term storage in a seed bank.

I went on three field trips collecting seed – in the West Midlands, Dumfries and Galloway & Lothian and Yorkshire – collecting seeds as varied as alder blackthorn, wild service tree, purging buckthorn, wayfaring tree, ash, spindle, holly & small leaved lime. I interviewed a number of Kew’s tree scientists, volunteers and partners on the Project as well as visiting the Herbarium at Kew and the Millennium Seed Bank where I observed the seeds being frozen and preserved in the seed bank at Wakehurst Place.

Work inspired by the residency

I made a film Future Seeds: an adventure with wind, trees and people during lockdown in spring 2020 using video footage collected during my residency. Running for 21 minutes it features the multiple voices of the trees, those involved in the project and the almost ever-present wind to tell the story of the Project and explore the relationship to trees of those involved. It was premiered in July 2020 on the UAL Graduate Showcase.

In August 2020 I bought a printing press and installed it in the garage and spent much of lockdown experimenting with printing with various materials and techniques, but all using locally collected plant material from native trees near where I live in Rusholme, All the prints use plates the same size as the herbarium specimen cards at Kew. Techniques used include carborundum, acrylic monoprinting and two-colour printing. Between September 2020 and April 2021 I built us a considerable body of experimental and finished work.

During the winter lockdown in 2021 made a new, shorter film utilising the same material but focused more closely on the emotional dimensions of those involved in the project in three chapters – Hope, Lament & Joy. Superseeded runs for six minutes thirty secons and was premiered at the Spaces to Intervene in a System group show in Bethnal Green in August 2021.

Places to Intervene in a System

Much of this work and both films were shown at this joint exhibition At Lumen Crypt Gallery, St Johns Bethnal Green, Museum Gardens and Phytology in August 2021 (having been postponed from April 2020 to November to May and finally to August). The first physical show I was able to mount and attend since March 2020, Dialogues with Ecologies was an art research exhibition exploring different dimensions of human interactions with nature in various ways – moths, sensing, community, trees and locale.

You can find out more about the show and my fellow artists Catherine Herbert, Becky Lyon, Katherine Pogson and Claire Shovelton at Places To Intervene in a System or through this UAL Postgraduate Community story.

And here is a short video featuring the exhibition by local visitor CJ Jude!

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©2021 Phil Barton