After a holiday closure, the Eli and Edythe Broad Art Museum reopened with its latest exhibit, “Seeds of Resistance” on Jan. 15.
The exhibit responds to the concerns of our planet’s biodiversity, showcasing a long history of human interdependence on plants. Connecting local histories, the legacy of one of the university’s most-revered faculty Dr. William J. Beal, and international artists, the display encourages learning and imagining of a more sustainable future.
“So many people will find this exhibition relevant because of the subject matter. We all engage with plants in some way in our daily lives, whether it’s through our own gardens, the food we eat, or even in our careers,” Broad Museum Director of Communications, Morgan Butts said.
“But in a broader sense, this exhibition feels so relevant to me right now because it’s encouraging us to collectively imagine better, more sustainable futures. The focus is specifically ecological in ‘Seeds of Resistance,’ but I think the things we’ve lived through in the past year have shone a light on certain ways of living that are just not sustainable. And instead of allowing ourselves to feel stuck in these models, these artists encourage us to imagine more for ourselves and for our planet. There’s urgency in this exhibition, but there is also a lot of hope.”
Paying homage to Dr. William J. Beal’s local legacy on MSU’s campus, the exhibit celebrates his work with the longest ongoing scientific experiment in modern history, the Beal Seed Viability Experiment, started in 1879. The display also reflects the ongoing student and faculty research in botany and forestry, cementing MSU’s spot as a top-tier research institution. The all-ages exhibition includes accessible native plant scavenger hunts, a gallery wall drawing activity, and discovery packs for all museum visitors.
Associate Curator Steven L. Bridges spoke to ELi about the showcase, which addresses concerns like seed banking, climate change, crop collapse, habitation destruction, and other environmental issues.
“Around 2016, I first started to think more deeply about the important ways that contemporary artists were approaching issues of biodiversity, environmental health and sustainability, and biocultural heritage,” Bridges said. “It was at that time that I wrote an essay for the online academic journal Seismopolite titled “Seeds of Resistance,” focusing on three artists — Dornith Doherty, Claire Pentecost, and Sam Van Aken — all of whom are in the current exhibition.”
“In the years since, I have become increasingly interested in how artists approach these topics in truly interdisciplinary ways, and how their powers of imagination allow us to envision new and alternative ways of relating to the natural world. The idea for the exhibition eventually coalesced around the form of the seed, in literal and metaphorical terms, and specifically how seeds encode both genetic information and human cultural values. In recognition of this, then, the preservation of seeds is also the preservation of cultural knowledge and production.”
Bridges describes the exhibit as a timely one, encompassing wide-ranging backgrounds, lived experiences and geographical regions of participating artists, while being rooted in local soil.
“In this way the exhibition as a whole points to the interconnected nature of our ecosystems —the local and global are deeply entwined — and the artworks too create a kind of ecosystem,” Bridges said. “
The exhibition isn’t just about seeds; one can’t talk or think about seeds if you aren’t also considering soil health, the threat of climate change, the dangers of pollution, and habitat loss,” Bridges continued. “This emphasis on interconnectedness hopefully inspires visitors to consider their role in these ecosystems, and how their own health and prosperity is very much linked to the natural environment and the great biodiversity of life on earth.”
Admission to the museum is free, including this exhibit, which runs from Jan. 15 to July 18, 2021. Tickets can be reserved online, part of the museum’s newly implemented, timed-entry ticketing system that enforces capacity limits. Tickets can be reserved online up to a month in advance. New museum hours are Friday through Sunday from noon to 6 p.m.