Friday, June 4, 2010

Pacts with the Devil

_Border detail from Haiti's Seed Money_
Today's post is art made for a specific date: namely today, June 4th, 2010, World Environment Day, the date when Haitian farmers threatened to burn the Monsanto Corporations 475 ton seed donation. This box is probably the most political of all the Ox and O boxes I’ve made so far.

_Open box showing contents_

It didn’t start out that way, but since the boxes are inspired by a thematic exploration on the topic of choice, I’m traveling paths that have political implications on occasion. In thinking of themes for boxes in this present series I first constructed Power Play, then Play Money and then Seed Money came to mind. Since I’ve also been bouncing around with opposites, reactions and consequences as a way to set up these tic tac toe boxes the word association play comes first then the ideas and imagery. 

_Cover to the small "instruction" book included in contents of box_
 So ‘seed money’ sent me backtracking an article I had seen in passing, concerning the Haitian earthquake and the continuing efforts at relief and rebuilding. From the Huffington Post I reread the brief outline of Monsanto's efforts to donate corn and vegetable seed that some farmers in Haiti view as the beginning of the end. Monsanto Corporation has caused controversy for decades (producer of Agent Orange during the Viet Nam war) and in many minds an ethically challenged entity with global reach. Although Haiti’s Ministry has rejected Monsanto’s GMO (genetically modified organism) seed varieties, the hybrids offered are treated with either the fungicide Maxim XO or thiram. The comment thread on that link reveals heated argument for both camps, ie Monsanto is acting altruistically vs Monsanto is capitalizing on disaster. 

_Pigment print collage on underside of lid_
On the other side of this equation are local producers such as Chavannes Jean-Baptiste of the Peasant Movement of Papay (MPP). "We need to establish seed banks and have silos where we can store our Creole seeds. Local, organic seeds are the basis of food sovereignty. It's urgent that Haitians buy local seeds. ... What's the danger we face today? It's that food aid from USAID and others is getting dumped in the country."

_Prose from 'instruction' book_

The other idea I added to the box concerns the claims of the televangelist Pat Robertson that the Haitians suffer as a result of making a pact with the devil in 1791. Supposedly, this legend has origins dating from the slave uprising against French colonialist rule. 

_Anonymous 17th century woodcut illustrating a pact with the devil_
 This box contains the same variety of elements (and a few specific to this box) from the others boxes in my Ox and O series; the book, the blank grids, pigment pads, seed corn, collages of pigment prints as well as the hand carved stamps.

_Detail of the corn carving on the bottom of one of the hands_
The images I created for the interior compartment refer to Haiti's past history of slavery. The bottom image is from a ship diagram showing the loading of a vessel to maximize the transport of slaves. The underside of the hinged compartment is a composite digital collage with a historical illustration of a muzzle restraint superimposed over a photo of myself burdened by a necklace of coins around the neck. This collage element is titled 'Accept our Gifts' and refers to the payments Haiti was forced to make to France in return for it's independence. (backed by high interest loans provided by the US among other nations)
One thing I've become painfully aware of in researching imagery, political and philosophical thought in the information age is the overwhelming amount of propaganda masquerading as fact on every side of controversial issues. Choices and consequences. 

So, while I didn't start out to make an in your face political statement, it appears that is what I've accomplished. A special consideration for one day June 4th, 2004.

_Closed box_

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