Pass It On began with the idea of creating little points of knowledge and connection, which form a narrative from one place to the next, and beyond. Referencing the evolution, shift and migration of many things, the installation seeks to create a space in which to consider the positive and negative effects of the process of change, the fluid nature of culture, knowledge, memory and history. The resulting sculpture involves 8900 hand-numbered saga seeds – tiny red particles which the audience are invited to take and pass on.
In Southeast Asia I have researched the expedited process of development in cities, often leading to a loss of nature, traditional culture and knowledge, as well as lost history and memory archives. In Singapore, this includes reclaiming land from the sea. Nature is a symbol of the past or of the ‘Kampong’ (rural village). This fast paced development leads to a tension between the need to modernise and the desire to hold onto the past. Our respect for nature as a holder of wisdom and the past as a respected monument collides with our view of contemporary constructs as the new intellectual frame.
In Pass It On, 8900 seeds compose a meandering line, based on river formations. This line of red particles traverse the gallery space atop a mirrored floor which throws waves of light and shadow into the space. Visitors are invited to pick up one seed each, and so the red layer shifts and erodes during the exhibition to reveal a text underneath. Starting with the words ‘Take one and pass it on’, this poetic and playful text evolves throughout the sculpture’s length.
The seeds were gathered from Singapore, where the heritage Saga tree is becoming rarer due to dwindling green space. Like many natural objects, the vibrant saga seeds are heavily significant in Southeast Asian culture. They feature in legends and literature, and have been widely used as a measuring unit against the weight of gold, (hence the Arabic word “saga” meaning “goldsmith”), as well as being used as a counterbalance by spice merchants, scientists and alchemists. In Singapore they were integral to children’s games, and also called ‘love seeds’, collected for lovers to symbolise connection – even when circumstance dictated separation. Inspired by this idea of entanglement, I made connections between each red ovule, created a weighty tension between the seed layer and the floor text, and forged correlations between each viewer who picks up a numbered red sphere.
To me, the simple, beautiful seeds represent the innocence of childhood, love, nature, tradition and origination. Through the sculpture’s process of change and the introduction of text, the artwork references the erosive pace of cultural development, and the inevitable displacement of the natural environment. Knowledge too shifts: Beginning as objective truth, becoming subjective plurality.
Each hand-numbered seed is catalogued according to the location it was collected by the artist, as well as the stories and events that occurred in the process. The growing ‘seed-log’ archive of stories can be read at nicolaanthony.co.uk/sagaseeds. The audience is invited to take a seed and pass it on.
Read the stories behind each seed’s journey on the online seed-journal. If you were one of the visitors who picked up a saga seed from this artwork, read your own seed’s story by entering its number in the interactive journal or tweeting your #SeedNumber to @nicola_anthony.