Seeds of Change

May 2019, 58th Venice Biennale, May You Live In Interesting Times
May 2020, Villa Romana, Florence

Site specific, dimensions variable.
Wood, metal ultraviolet lighting, glass, soil, green roof substrate and capillary matting ,wildflowers and printed voiles

Plants are vital to almost every aspect of our daily lives. They provide us with food, fibres, medicines, fuel, shelter, clothing and the air we breathe. Many animal species are also directly dependent on plants for their survival. Plants are essential constituents of ecosystems and play a key role in the Earth’s system. It is estimated 50,000 – 70,000 plant species are used in medicines throughout the world. They make an essential contribution to healthcare and still provide an important source of income in some rural areas.

Europe’s Roma, like it’s plants have been facing an ever-increasing range of threats, from displacement, lack of habitat, (places to stop or live) and are constantly vulnerable to changes in the economic and social environment. Roma lives are lived in the tension between moments of erasure and hyper-visibility. This jumping from invisibility to exposure in the media (and never in a positive way), creates a cycle.

The idea of erasure/hyper-visibility doesn’t only relate to the Romani/ Roma community but in fact the cycle of erasure/hyper-visibility puts Romani/Roma into what is happening in a much wider context to working, minority and migrant communities all over the world.

In my research I looked at the history of Travelling peoples as healers. I discovered a wide range of wild medicinal plants that would be available to Roma travelling across Europe. Many thousands of wild plants have considerable economic and cultural importance and potential, providing food, fuel, clothing, shelter and medicine.

The work in which living plants and screens create a futuristic vision of travellers lives, portraying new ways of looking at these issues, is an attempt to establish dialogue and alter entrenched attitudes, and lead to a re-examination of Roma lives, past and present. To reopen dialogue on how historically, Romani people were respected for the skills they brought to the communities they visited or lived within and the to break the seeming impossibility of escaping the cycle of erasure and hyper-visibility. Cures and growth bring optimism for the future.

I also see the use of flowers and seeds as patteran*, signs, to mark where we have been and where we are going. Plants grow slowly and seed, are self-renewing, I see them as a metaphor for the Roma diaspora, how we established ourselves in bare earth, growing in this new ground, re-imagining it’s landscapes.

Seeds of Change, installed at 58th Venice Biennale, 2019 (photos: Benjamin Renter)


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Seeds of Change, installed at Villa Romana, Florence, 2020 (photos: OKNO Studio)


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