Janna Holmstedt

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Between Earthworms and Satellites

Storytelling and seed sharing by the fire, part of the gathering "Popcorn & Film: Interfaces", Feb 2019.

The story moves between and relates different figures, places and times:
The allotment where the storyteller and the listeners are situated, which is a tiny remnant of a once huge allotment community that was leveled with the ground in 1965. Peru 6700 years ago. Earthworms in the soil beneath our feet. Sentinel-1, a pair of satellites that orbit Earth to monitor soil moisture in order to anticipate floods and droughts, fires and other catastrophic events that accompany climate change. A cob of corn from Zea mays var. amylacea.

It all started with a gift, a handful of seeds, and the planting of the seeds.

Excerpts from the storytelling session (translated to english):

So, I planted the seeds.
And I tried to pay close attention.

Meanwhile, I've noticed that the soil, is changing me. I no longer think of the allotment as a garden to cultivate or design, but as an ecosystem where I might fit in.

An insight has begun to dawn on me, that I'm actually a kind of worm.
At least, that's a clan of creatures I strive to belong to.

Through growing I become part of a bundle of collaborative systems in a specific habitat. Soils are complex living systems, teeming with microbial life. The soil is a vital part of the plant's metabolism. The soil could be said to be the plant's stomach and intestines.

This insight is slowly working its way through me, as a wave in slow motion.
How my stomach is like soil, teeming with microbial life, and soils are like a stomach.
My perspectives and my body are suddenly turned inside out.

I'm nothing more than a microbe in the stomach of the earth.


6.700 years ago, somewhere in the area of present-day Peru, people sat around a fire, told stories, and shared a bowl of popcorn. Archaeological discoveries lead me to that conclusion.

Maize began to be cultivated in current Mexico about 9,000 years ago and would become central to all indigenous cultures in the Americas.

Today, maize, or corn, is the world's most cultivated and genetically modified grain.
It's one of twelve crops that dominate the global agricultural industry.

Twelve crops alone make up 75% of the total global food production. The genetic diversity inherited from previous generations has decreased drastically since the 1930s. In Mexico, 80% of the genetic diversity in maize has disappeared. This means that a massive part of the global food production rests on a very vulnerable genetic base.

It turned out that the seeds I had been given are from a variety that has been cultivated by hand by Dave Christensen from more than 70 different varieties, many of them now extinct, which he's collected from indigenous people and small farmers in North America. It's taken him 40 years. These varieties have been developed in quite tough areas, and are genetically very diverse. In addition, they're rich in antioxidants and protein. It's a maize that grows where no other maize survives

I find this monumental. That I through these seeds that was handed to me become part of 9000-year-old relation.

With support from Konstnärsnämnden (Swedish Arts Grants Committee, Visual Arts Fund)

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