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Exhibition at the VIR / Vavilov Institut, St. Petersburg
(Dedicated to the 130th anniversary of Nikolai Ivanovich Vavilov)
Observation Journal is a project of several years which seeks to combine empirical studies by the artists with scientific experiments. These are conducted in cooperation with institutions like AGES (Austrian Agency for Health and Food Safety), BOKU (University of Natural Resources and Life Sciences, Vienna) and VIR (Vavilov National Plant Research Institute, Saint Petersburg) within the framework of an ongoing interdisciplinary artwork. It was part of the 6th MOSCOW BIENNALE OF CONTEMPORARY ART, 2015, and VIENNA CONTEMPORARY - International Art Fair, 2016 and the 12th KRASNOYARSK BIENNALE OF CONTEMPORARY ART, 2017

In the last year of World War II (March 1944 – May 1945) the Nazi SS Institute for Plant Genetics was established at Lannach castle in Styria. Here, several species of crop were grown and examined, which had been robbed during the siege of Saint Petersburg from a secret gene bank of plants of the then leading geneticist Nikolay Vavilov. Observation Journal pays tribute to this specific chapter of history and at the same time inquires into the controversial topic of global
control of seeds. The multi-part work is conducted in cooperation with Russian artist Sergey Kischenko and ranges from seeding to harvesting the plants. Six different, partially rare crop species which were already cultivated in 1944, namely barley, wheat, rye, oat, the barley variant Hordeum Bulbosum, and goatgrass Aegilops, a summer wheat ancestor, have been sown again near Lannach castle.
By transporting a fraction of the harvest to Moscow in autumn 2015 and performing an action in a Moscow gallery as a contribution to 6th Moscow Biennale of Contemporary Art the process of outdoor work is transformed into a work of art. The elaboratly hand-cultivated field of 2,500 square meters offers a possible depiction of producing one of humanity‘s food sources. By intervening at a specific place and as a historical re-enactment the work is an instrument of active rememberance. By visiting the site it emerges as an interactive experience and a participatory project.
(Katrin Bucher Trantow, Kunsthaus Graz)

As a comment on contemporary history, the second part of Observation Journal comprises both art and scientific research. According to the artists‘ instructions, specialists from VIR/Institute of Plant Research, Saint Petersburg, BOKU/University of Natural Resources, Vienna, and AGES/Institute for Food Safety, Linz contribute to the project. Crops from seeds provided by Vavilov Institute have been cultivated on the experimental fields of BOKU near the city of Tulln in Lower Austria and subsequently have been analysed scientifically. Furthermore, Vavilov Institute has in store historical Austrian crops, which are not represented
in seed banks in Austria. Theses crops have now been bred on the fields of VIR Institute near Saint Petersburg and a part of the harvest will be shipped to Austria in the course of the project. Varieties, which are stored in both institutions, are analysed in order to find whether and to what extent breeding has influenced the genome. Supported by scientists, the artists are going to interbreed two species provided by AGES and VIR. The resulting new variety will then be described
and recorded and subsequently forwarded to Svalbard Global Seed Vault, an international seed bank situated on the remote island of Spitsbergen, Norway. Addressing the themes of Observation Journal even more specifically, scientists of BOKU University are growing barely of the Nürnberg 1 (Nuremberg 1) variety. After some weeks of growth these plants are shipped in plant boxes to regions with different climates, creating moving fields. Additionally, the whole process will be evaluated scientifically. Participating in Vienna International Art Fair viennacontemporary, the artists will be presenting artistic and scientific analyses.

Ekaterina Shkomova, researcher, philosopher and professor at Lomonosov University, Moscow, on the Observation Journal project:

„The timeliness of the topics addressed and the methods and means used by Resa Pernthaller, Anita Fuchs and Sergey Kishenko in the course of the project conform to modern trends in both art and science, namely interdisciplinary approach and synthesis of knowledge. This development can be best observed and researched in the light of developments in biology. It is not by chance that the 20th and 21st century are considered the age of predominace of life science. Indeed, in the second half of the 20th century several new disciplines emerged, which are based on the undoubted achievements in biology. Among those sociobiology,
biopolitics and biological aesthetics have to be mentioned – and now Bio Eco Art can be added to this list. From that perspective, Observation Journal belongs to this new art movement.“

Elisabeth Fiedler, Head of Department of Art in Public Space/Styria Universalmuseum Joanneum:

„Warring states, nutritional problems or seed manipulation are always current issues, as are survival strategies, collaborations or peace efforts. As an integral part of life, art never stands apart in this respect - instead, it constantly raises questions on neuralgic issues.“

photo © sergey kishchenko, resanita