The Souper Dress Memorial Seed Exchange is a community resource to alchemize The Souper Dress as a promoter of consumerist culture into an offering that encourages people to grow gardens. It is a cousin of the Little Free Library: a place to take seeds and leave seeds. Made from branches and scrap lumber and embellished with root masses and hexagons, the seed exchange has a green roof over the cabinet which contains the seeds.
The Souper Dress, circa 1966-67 was a collaboration between the food giant Campbell’s and Andy Warhol. These disposable paper dresses captured the very essence of the consumerist lifestyle that was emerging at that time and is now pushing us toward climate collapse.
The color scheme coincidentally matches the Carrie Mae Weems: Resist COVID / Take 6! posters that are in the windows behind the Seed Exchange. This coincidence also inspired me to think about parallels between the message behind the seed exchange and these posters. The poster states, “Because of Inequity, Black, Brown and Native people have been the most impacted by COVID-19! This must be changed!!” Similarly, these groups often have less access to grow gardens, and the related benefits to gardening. Leah Penniman, owner of Soul Fire Farm in Albany, New York writes, “I think farming is revolutionary, fundamentally. It’s about weaving together a relationship to land, our human communities and the spiritual realm, and producing something that’s undeniably good.” The truth is that although the earth supports our existence, as a society we have moved so far from having a connection to the earth, that the idea of farming is revolutionary – bringing us back to our foundation of being. The The seed exchange creates a space for equal access to free seeds and information. Coming out of social isolation, there are a lot of people dealing with anxiety and depression, and gardening can be a bridge to making connections. People can share crops and tips, and eat healthy food that they know where it came from. Gardening in community is also a way to build relationships among neighbors, with people being out and about in their gardens, engaging in a shared activity.
Viewers/participants are invited to take or leave seeds, and to track what they drop off and what they pick up in the logbook. While the artwork itself may read as environmental art, the aesthetics of this piece hold equal or less importance to the collaborative act of making meaning out of it, which will be a natural outcome of the use of the seed exchange. The seed exchange will be travelling to Worcester in August to be part of the Art in the Park Biennial in Elm Park!