Seed Constellation

Susan Derges , 2021

At the beginning of lockdown, I was caught in the middle of moving home and studio to a new location. I managed the domestic part but the studio and all its equipment remain packed away, until the removals company are able to clear their backlog. I felt ungrounded, in an unfamiliar place, and without a regular daily work routine to distract me from the impending global storm, as we all suspended our normal lives and hunkered down into our separate ‘bubbles’. The sense of isolation and distance was intense, so with no project on the go and initially as a distraction, I turned to food and thoughts about how I could make something good to enhance the boring weekly essentials shop. I decided to prepare for growing something edible both in and outdoors. I began germinating a pack of mixed seeds in the warm and dark of a corner of the kitchen and became intrigued by the extraordinary qualities of new life emerging from the variously shaped husks of the seeds. They were so expressive of an irrepressible and mysterious movement towards growth and life that it was impossible not to anthropomorphise each one, and regard them as sharing some of the essential qualities of other embryonic life forms, including ours.


This spring was incredible for it’s abundance of everything from the natural world, in stark opposition to the absence of ourselves. I began to wonder what was germinating within this absence, as I watched the sprouting seeds, and sensed that we also, in our mostly internal, dormant states must be germinating all kinds of new impetuses to be brought into the world at the right time. I had no camera but had brought a scanner and computer with me, so began a daily process of checking and scanning the emerging new sprouts, which over three months of lockdown have increased to a collection of images in the hundreds. As I worked on each intriguing and absorbing emerging form, a process of reflection has unfolded, in parallel, on the people that I know, and those I’ve read about, or seen on the news or through social media, or imagined. A growing sense of all this humanity forming a vast constellation of new potential has taken shape in my mind, fusing with the gestating life revealed in the luminous scans. The decision to appropriate the fearful Covid-19 spherical form and use it as the form into which to place this metaphorical seed cluster, seemed far preferable to using a chronological or taxonomic method for displaying the collection.  The visual rendering might be seen as an overly optimistic vision, when all the evidence seems to point to an entire era coming to a close, but life teaches us that where there is an end, something has to be transformed out of that energy. There is a cyclical process of renewal that we might yet remain part of, if sustainable choices are made in terms of what emerges out of this lockdown period. Food production and supply are being reconsidered and re-formed but nourishment of the individual and collective soul is an equally essential aspect of our continuing co-existence on this planet. I see the seed constellation functioning as an emblem of that potential.