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The Seed Project sprouts in NYC

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For five weeks beginning October 25th, The Seed Project, a “global environmental installation,” will be on view in New York City. The Seed Project challenges participants to create art beginning with a package of grass seeds. You, the eco- and celeb-minded reader, may have heard some buzz about this project due to some rather well-known supporters; Paris Hilton, Nicole Richie and Lindsay Lohan are just a few of the stars who have picked up a package of seeds. And art-world luminaries David Byrne, Chuck Close, and Damien Hirst are among the 140 artists contributing to the exhibition. The result is a “virtual garden” that strives to create a bridge between art and environmentalism; a creative way to talk about sustainability.

Recently I chatted with David Cohen, the artist behind The Seed Project and the publisher of Artworld Digest. He’s clearly passionate about helping artists recognize their ability to affect positive environmental change. Among the many things we talked about were art (naturally), the famous people he’s invited to the opening (Al Gore!) and, of course, whether or not Paris is really gonna plant those seeds.

“Artists create the world,” Cohen says. “Fashion, architecture, packaging, advertising, food…media…writing…artists are behind everything. They define the way we experience culture. Artists can change the world and have an incredible amount of power….But [they] have become very non-political. You don’t see a lot of work that’s engaging in what’s happening.

“It’s all about realizing the power that you have. The whole trick is, how do you illustrate that power? Like voting. It’s one vote out of 250 million votes. How do you visualize that as artists? That’s where the answer lies…. If we all felt empowered there’s no telling what we could do.”

The opening of the NYC exhibition of The Seed Project is Thursday, Oct. 25th, 6-8 pm at the Winkleman Gallery. The exhibit will be up for five weeks. Hit the jump for more from our interview with David Cohen.

E: What do you think about the connection between artists/entertainers and activism? Do you think people are actually getting the message?

D: I don’t think [environmentalism] has taken root as a behavioral phenomenon yet. The Seed Project is addressing a cultural shift. My idea was to use art as a bridge, a strategy. I think entertainers and celebrities becoming role models is a good idea, but of course the lifetstyle those celebrities live is somewhat antithetical…In a way they’re not the best role models; if everyone lived like a celebrity, in like an hour, the world would run out of resources! (laughs) But the power that they have is tremendous…they have such reach, and you need to spend resources to promote a new lifestyle. You can’t get the message across without using power or electricity or airplanes to spread your ideas…so in that sense it’s a positive thing.

E: Your website says that Paris Hilton picked up a Seed Project package at a recent event. What is that package, and do you think Paris going to use it?

D: I go to openings and high-profile events and give the seeds away. The seeds have been selling at Whole Foods too. With Paris, it’s hard to say. A lot of people plant them whether they ever tell me or not. For whatever reason she seems to be trying to change her image in the press. She was at this event and arrived in a hybrid SUV…But it’s more symbolic than anything else. Any way you can get the idea of sustainability mentioned is better than not.

E: What are some of your favorite pieces in the show?

D: One person built a greenhouse out of cardboard…another person has a photograph of himself with grass stuffed in his mouth, like a play on the french-fry image from Supersize Me…Another artist took her grass for a walk; she had a container with wheels and there are pictures of her walking around the city…another artist took the grass traveling, and you see it in the luggage rack… And there are some cool videos and installations.

(We talked about how artists shape our culture, and the things they can do to engage people further in environmental ideas. Followed by a discussion about the reach of the internet and forward-thinking design.)

E: I think that in the future when we’re faced with environmental crises, the great minds are going to look back on the artistic efforts that are happening now and realize that a lot of solutions have already been visualized.

D: When you think about things like Star Trek, it’s actually like a a self-fulfilling prophecy. An artist visualizes this world and then people seem to want to create it. And then if you visualize these apocalyptic worlds….like Mad Max or Blade Runner…is it a prediction, or does it actually cause the future? Using that argument, we need more positive images in the media of what could be.

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