2016-2018 Prize Winner: Maria Thereza Alves and Seeds of Change

2016 - 2018
Brazilian artist Maria Thereza Alves has been named winner of The New School's 2016-2018 Vera List Center Prize for Art and Politics by an international jury of artists, curators and scholars including Ruth Wilson Gilmore, Charif Kiwan, Carin Kuoni, and Radhika Subramaniam, chaired by Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev. Alves is awarded the prize for her ongoing project Seeds of Change that explores the social, political and cultural history of ballast flora in port cities and, in so doing, reveals patterns, temporalities and instruments of colonialism, commerce and migration going back many centuries. Maria Thereza Alves was nominated by Lara Khaldi, an independent curator based in Jerusalem, Palestine.

Seeds of Change
Seeds of Change is a long-term project that so far has been presented in several European port cities – Marseille, Liverpool, and Bristol among them. It examines the legacies of colonialism and the global commerce of goods and people through the displacement of plants, focusing on the scientific, social and political history of ballast, the waste material used to stabilize ships in maritime trade and dumped in ports at the end of the ships' passages. Ballast contains "dormant" seeds that can remain viable in the soil for hundreds of years before germinating and growing. As Alves grows young plants from these dormant seeds – often in floating barges or gardens, developed in collaboration with local communities and scientists – she examines how we understand the identity of a place and its sociopolitical histories. As such the project questions the official accounts of culture as well as the lands it is built on and through.

Jury Citation
"The jury unanimously awards Maria Thereza Alves the third Vera List Center Prize for Art and Politics for her boldness in addressing through art urgent questions of resistance to the homogenization of life itself. By reimagining the historical geography of the contemporary world, she practices globalization from below to understand the planet as a holistic ecology. Seeds of Change, since 2002, tracks the routes of transport of goods and people while making visible the dormant potentialities of soil, seas, and people. Artistic excellence is expressed across mediums and Alves' critical practice inside and outside of the art world is key to the precise forms of impacts her projects achieve."

The New York Times

The prize presentation as well as the accompanying conference and exhibition -- later to be followed by a publication -- will take place in New York on November 3 and 4, 2017. The inaugural prize recipient (2012-2014) was Theaster Gates for Dorchester Projects; the 2014-2016 prize winner was Abounaddara, the anonymous collective of Syrian filmmakers.

2016-2018 Vera List Center Prize for Art and Politics Finalists
London-based interdisciplinary research agency Forensic Architecture;
Artists coalition Gulf Labor;
House of Natural Fibers (HONF), a new media arts laboratory in Yogyakarta, Indonesia; IsumaTV, a collaborative multimedia platform for indigenous filmmakers and media organization in Canada; and
MadeYouLook, an artist collective based in Johannesburg, South Africa.

Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev, chair
Ruth Wilson Gilmore
Charif Kiwan (Abounaddara)
Carin Kuoni
Radhika Subramaniam

Taylor Aldridge
Katia Arfara
Kader Attia
Virginie Bobin
Christopher Cozier
Attilia Fattori Franchini
Mariam Ghani
Kaelen Wilson Goldie
Candice Hopkins
Eungie Joo
Gulnara Kasmalieva & Muratbek Djumaliev
Lara Khaldi
Miguel Lopez
Michelle Marxuach
Fernanda Nogueira
Nontobeko Ntombela
Hetti Perkins
Planting Rice
Rasha Salti
Joshua Simon
Mari Spirito
Alia Swastika
Hrag Vartanian
Joanna Warsza
Kaelen Wilson-Goldie

Prize Founding Supporters
James Keith (JK) Brown and Eric Diefenbach
Elizabeth R. Hilpman and Byron Tucker
Jane Lombard
Joshua Mack
The New School