The New Pangaea

A map of Seili

Human global activity is transferring species between continents at an unprecedented rate. This has (figuratively speaking) reversed continental drift, so that continents are now approaching each other. Scientists call this the “New Pangaea”, after the ancient supercontinent Pangaea, in which all the modern continents were fused. By destroying the natural isolation between continents, humans are rewinding geological history at high speed. When humans bring long-separated species together, variation between them is lost. The end result is not more complex or diverse, it is simpler and poorer; homogenised.

The New Pangaea looks at the interaction between humans and plants on Seili island, especially at how plants act as indicators of cultural and biological conditions. The projects consist of a herbarium (book) and a cantata (sound piece and video). Both projects have a selection of plant species which illustrate how the status of different plants has varied at Seili, and when the species have reached the island or disappeared from it.

The bookintroduces twenty plants and describes their cultural history: how the species have spread and how they have been viewed over the years. Plants which were once held to be useful have turned into weeds, while former weeds have later been protected by the Nature Conservation Act. Some of the plant species are classified as being native to Seili, but invasive elsewhere in Finland. Some species have spread to the island naturally, whereas others have intentionally or unintentionally been helped by humans.

The cantata and video shows the same twenty plants than the book. The audio material used in the sound piece and video has been collected in Seili either with microphones or by transforming the electrical conductivity of the plants into sounds audible to the human ear. The soil, climate and time of recording all have an effect on what kind of biodata the plants give; as does the sun, which functions as one of the cornerstones of the plants’ own production. Every plant is an individual and every recording gives a unique result. The cantata and video include also field recordings from Seili church and from the natural habitat of the plants throughout the island. 

In correlation with the cantata’s thematics and attention to the interrelations between humans and plants during different periods of time, vocalist Anniina Saksa has been invited to perform with the plants, singing notes which respond to the variations in each plant’s electrical conductivity.

The project was made in collaboration with CAA Contemporary Art Archipelago and the Archipelago Research Institute in Seili.

The book was published 2023 by CAA Contemporary Art Archipelago.

The video premiered 19.8.2023 in the 13th Savonlinna International Film Festival.