Maria Thereza Alves, Seeds of Change: New York—A Botany of Colonization

Fri 3 Nov 2017 - Mon 27 Nov 2017 The New School
Arnold and Sheila Aronson Galleries, Sheila C. Johnson Design Center, Parsons School of Design
66 Fifth Avenue
New York, NY 10011
Opening Reception
Friday, November 3, 6:45-8pm
Gallery Hours: Open daily 12-6pm and Thursdays 12-8pm
Thanksgiving Special Hours:
The galleries are closed from November 23 through November 26.
Last day of exhibition: Monday, November 27, 12-6pm

Admission is free to all events.
Recognized for her long-term project Seeds of Change, Maria Thereza Alves, Seeds of Change: New York—A Botany of Colonization, is Alves' first presentation of the work in the Americas. The exhibition opens November 3, 2017 at The New School with a New York focus.

Alves' Seeds of Change studies colonialism, slavery and the global commerce of goods through the lens of displaced plants in ballast—the waste material historically used to balance ships in maritime trade. Dumped in ports at the end of passages, ballast often carried "dormant" seeds collected from its place of origin that remained in the soil for hundreds of years before germinating and growing. Alves identifies the seeds as she looks at how plants trace the displacement of lands and people from the transatlantic slave trades.

Seeds of Change has been presented in several European port cities—Marseille, Liverpool, and Bristol among them. The New York iteration of Seeds of Change explores the history of foreign flora that traveled to New York City by trade ship ballast over the past two centuries. To understand this history, Alves' has worked with horticultural experts and local communities at Pioneer Works, The High Line, The New School and Weeksville Heritage Center to research the ballast flora and the stories it tells about migration, commodification and valuation. Each organization brings a distinct botanical history and community to the project.
"Maria Thereza's extraordinary work incites conversation around many pressing current issues such as involuntary migration or indigeneity and belonging," said Vera List Center for Art and Politics Director Carin Kuoni. "The exquisite beauty of her project—the delicate drawings, prints and maps—also the actual budding flowers—provides an easy entry to very challenging questions on the values that get associated with certain moving bodies, both historically and in our current time, and how 'alien' is never an intrinsic quality but one bestowed by context."

The exhibition will feature a living installation or a "greenhouse" of more than 60 ballast plants, a list of flora and maps that highlight the species and areas filled in with ballast in the New York region.

"Alves' ballast flora garden acts as a key for identifying the nonindigenous plants we come across everyday as signs of displacement and migration throughout the New York landscape," said Vera List Center Curator Amanda Parmer.

"When we are walking in New York, we do not know if we are stepping on New York or Bristol, Kingston in Jamaica, Lisbon, Rio de Janeiro or Oslo," Alves said. "Many chunks of Europe ended up in New York and many chunks of New York ended up in Europe, especially during the early colonial years. That image is quite shocking: the 'displanting' of New York."

Alves selected two sites and communities for propagating the seeds for the exhibition. As the home of the VLC, The New School offices and dormitories were an obvious choice and in June their faculty, staff and students began growing ballast flora for the exhibition. The second location, Pioneer Works, is a primary site of ballast and is activated through participation with their community youth (YG2—Young Gardeners 2) who began propagating ballast seeds this July.

These developing gardens and gardeners are the cornerstone of the Alves' Prize exhibition that opens Friday, Nov. 3 with a reception from 6:45-8:00 p.m. (free and open to the public with RSVP) and will be on view through November 27 in the Arnold and Sheila Aronson Galleries in the Sheila C. Johnson Design Center at The New School in New York. In the summer of 2018, the work will be re-sited at the three partner organizations around New York including The High Line, Pioneer Works and Weeksville Heritage Center.

Prior to the exhibition opening reception, Alves will participate in a keynote conversation and Prize presentation at 6 p.m. in the Auditorium at the New School (also free and open to the public with RSVP). At this time, Alves will also accept the Prize object, Yoko Ono's sculpture The Third Eye.

The Vera List Center Prize for Art and Politics 2016-2018: Maria Thereza Alves, Seeds of Change New York—A Botany of Colonization is organized by Carin Kuoni, director of the Vera List Center for Art and Politics and Amanda Parmer, curator of the Vera List Center, and is made possible by Prize Founding Supporters: James Keith Brown and Eric Diefenbach, Elizabeth R. Hilpman and Byron Tucker, Jane Lombard, Joshua Mack and The New School. The exhibition is made possible with the support of the Sheila C. Johnson Design Center at The New School.

Maria Thereza Alves (1961, Brazil, lives in Germany and Italy) is an artist. Alves was co-founder of the Partido Verde of São Paulo, Brazil in 1987 and in 1981 representative to the U.S. for the Partido dos Trabalhadores (Workers' Party) of Brazil. In 1979, as a member of the International Indian Treaty Council, based in New York, she made an official presentation on the human rights abuses of the indigenous population of Brazil at the U.N. Human Rights Conference in Geneva. In 2012, José Manuel Barroso, the president of the European Union, asked Alves to be part of his special committee to formulate a New Narrative for Europe. Alves' art work has been seen in many international exhibitions and biennials, among them the 29th São Paulo Biennale (2016, 2010), the Moscow Biennale (2015), the Berlin Biennial (2014), and dOCUMENTA13 (2012), and is currently on view at the Sharjah Art Biennial 13.

Hyperallergic is the exclusive media sponsor for the International Vera List Center Prize for Art and Politics 2016-2018.
      • K Vera List Center 2016-2018 Prize Companion Download - pdf (539 kB)