Photo of a cowslip (Primula veris) at night

The New Pangaea

The New Pangaea is an art project examining the spread and retreat of the plant species on the Isle of Seili. It is part of the Contemporary Art Archipelago’s Spectres in Change project, that explores environmental changes in the Turku archipelago. Artists are invited to develop long-term research-based projects that take the questions raised by the island context as their starting point. The New Pangaea is made in collaboration with the Archipelago Research Institute of Turku University.

The New Pangaea investigates the interaction between man and plants in Seili, particularly how plants act as indicators of cultural and biological conditions. The work consists of a herbarium (book) and a cantata (sound work). The plant species selected to the project illustrate the changes in status of plants in Seili, as well as, how and when those species arrived or disappeared on the island.

The Herbarium tells about the spreading and cultural history of the species and how their appreciation has varied over time. Old useful plants have turned into weeds, and similarly old weeds are now protected by the Nature Conservation Act. Some species are classified in Seili as native, but elsewhere in Finland as harmful alien species. Some of the species have come to the island naturally, some with human assistance either consciously or accidentally.

Cantata sonifies the plant species by using microvolt sensors to record biodata from the plants and combines sound piece based on recorded biodata. Soil, climate and the time of recording affect what kind of biodata what kind of data you will get – not forgetting the sun, which serves as one of the cornerstones of plants’ own food production. Each recording gives its own unique result.

On a more general level, The New Pangaea deals with the impact of human activities on Seili ecosystems. The structural change in agriculture has changed the so-called traditional biotopes threatened by overgrowth. Global warming is shifting life zones northbound, bringing new species from the south. Similarly, species classified as harmful by Metsähallitus will be removed from the Island of Seili. These are all (agri)cultural policy decisions by which man wants to regulate the species of the island. However, nature has its own evolution that does not care about human acts. Man himself can also be seen as a kind of weed or a harmful alien species. Survival strategies are very similar.