Dornith Doherty – ‘Archiving Eden’

Dornith Doherty’s project ‘Archiving Eden’ (2008 – ongoing) – the extraordinary visual power of x-rays photographs and collages of seeds and tissue samples stored in crucial world collections as poetic questions about life, time and our future, and the tension between stillness and change.

“I am struck by the power of these tiny plantlets and seeds (many are the size of a grain of sand) to generate life and to endure the time span central to the process of seed banking, which seeks to make these sparks last for two hundred years or more.”

Dornith Doherty - Archiving Eden

Dornith Doherty – Archiving Eden

 

The project started in a collaboration with seed banks to document their preservation efforts in the face of climate change and the extinction of natural species – a kind of Noah’s arks of planet’s botanical diversity. There are 1.400 such banks in the world and they range from small private to massive governmental institutions. They serve as a global botanical backup system to assure the opportunity for reintroduction of species in case of a catastrophic event or civil strife affect a key ecosystem somewhere in the world.

“Photographs are a trace of something that was recorded in the past and when you look at them in the present, there is that tension between the past and the present that makes the passage of time an underpinning element of all photography. These collections, these libraries of life preserve the present for the future that is so distant that can’t even be known… The use of the color delft/indigo blue evokes references not only to the process of cryogenic preservation, central to the methodology of saving seeds, but also to the intersection of east and west, trade, cultural exchange, and migration.

 

Dornith Doherty - Archiving Eden

Dornith Doherty – Archiving Eden

 

To learn more about the project and the seed banks, there is an interesting and inspiring talk given by the artist at TED and a book published in 2017 with some of the photographs made by then.