Seeds of Change: Reposaari



Seeds of Change is an ongoing investigation of ballast flora in the port cities of Europe which has been realized for Marseilles (France), Reposaari (Finland), Dunkirk (France), Exeter/Topsham (UK), Liverpool (UK), and Bristol (UK).

Reposaari was at one time the major port of Finland and ballast material arriving there was used as landfill to build up the island. Two hundred samples of earth from ballast sties were collected from the homes of local residents. Ballast flora grows abundantly throughout this small community whose residents have become interested in their non-native plants.

Soili Tuukki has several ballast plants growing in her garden. Some have sprung up naturally; others have been the results of bartering with neighbors.

In the middle of Eero Raesma’s garden, a solitary exotic ballast plant stands regally. Towards the back, large areas are covered with ballast flora.

Vekko Andersson’s house lies along what had been known as the London Road, which had been a temporary road built to transport ballast material from the docks to the other side of the island so that it would provide the foundation material for the construction of London Villa, built by the owner of a dock in the port of Reposaari. Along the way, ballast material spilled from the wagons and plants grew where one would not think to look for them, since they were so far away from the original ballast areas. The road has long since closed but Vekko pointed out that the ballast plant Chelidonium majus, originally from Asia, grows well there.

Samples of earth taken from ballast sites were germinated and placed in a greenhouse in the Taidemuseo (Museum of Contemporary Art) in Pori. Each sample exhibited at the museum was labeled with the name of the garden’s owner. This became a meeting place for sharing information between the residents of Reposaari and Pori and the scientific community. (Since ballast flora grew freely in Reposaari; a ballast garden project would be redundant.)

Maria Thereza Alves was born in 1961 in São Paulo, and lives and works in Berlin. Focusing on ecology, indigenous knowledge and the enduring impact of imperial conquest, her work ranges from written texts and drawings to photographs, videos, mixed media installations and performances. Although her work often bears witness to specific histories of erasure, these instances shed light on modern regimes of thought and production that have been the focus of the artist’s sustained inquiry since the 1980s.

Her work has been featured in solo and group exhibitions, including recently at Sharjah Biennial 13 (2017); São Paulo Biennale (2016, 2010); Centro Andaluz de Arte Contemporáneo, Seville (2015); Museo Universitario Arte Contemporáneo, Mexico City (2014); Museu de Arte Moderna Aloísio Magalhães, Recife, Brazil (2014); Berlin Biennale (2014); Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Vigo, Spain (2013-2014); Musée d’Art Contemporain (MAC), Marseilles (2013).

Alves was awarded the Biennial Prize (2016-2018) from the Vera List Center for Art and Politics, The New School, New York.