A Tale of Two Seeds: Sound and Silence in Latin America's Andean Plains, a project co-produced with Atractor Studios, has won the Golden Nica at Prix Ars Electronica 2023, in the category of Digital Music and Sound Art. A subversive sound installation interrogating the problematic expansion of agro-industrial technologies in Latin America, and new forms of colonialism represented by genetic engineering, the privatisation of seeds and land sovereignty. The prestigious international prize for art and digital media has been awarded annually since 1987 within the framework of the Ars Electronica Festival in Linz (Austria), a multidisciplinary festival that explores the intersection between art, science, technology and society.
Tale of Two Seeds: Sound and Silence in Latin America's Andean Plains is a sound installation that explores food sovereignty, deforestation, and the preservation of biodiversity through the story of soy monoculture and its expansion in South American territories. The main body of research behind the project is concerned with how the aggressive practices of agroindustrial GM monocultures have had an irreversible and detrimental effect on the land. The amaranth grain also plays a key role in this story. Categorised as a parasite, amaranth has been resistant to even Monsanto’s ‘Roundup’ pesticide, and is the largest threat to soy monocultures. This work draws attention to the fact that amaranth occupied a valuable and sacred place in the lives of many indigenous peoples, and is an essential grain that circulates outside the predominant agro-industrial matrix. The corporate solution to combat amaranth has been a transgenic war in which an immunological mutation is operated on soy plants in order to diminish the virulent contagion of the indigenous grain. For this work, we used various recording devices such as contact microphones and ultrasonic detectors, to create soundscapes that document the enormous loss of diversity that agro-industrial expansion causes.
Two video screens compliment the sound installation. On Vegetal Politics, is a reconstruction of an algorithm commonly used in agribusiness to model the growth of transgenic crops on any type of soil. This work subverts this technology using it to model and demonstrate the enormous efficiency of the amaranth plant when pitted against GM soya. The second video, Botánica Transgénica, is a web 3.0 and blockchain art work, that uses search algorithms and web scraping on the internet, to register as Colombian intellectual property the codes patented by foreign agro-industrial companies on living organisms. This three-part installation not only highlights the dangers of GM crops and genetic extractivism, but also amaranth's role in the resistance to modern forms of colonialism most strongly represented by genetic engineering, the privatisation of seeds and land sovereignty.