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TAKING A TURN - IN LAND Walking backwards in time against the flow of ideas and seeds from America to Spain in the 16th century. May 23, 2017

Professor, Ignacio Chapela carrying a selection of grains collected on Seed Journey across the Picos
de Europa, Spain. Photo by Amy Franceschini

Today Seed Journey become land based once again. After months at sea, our bodies became used to the sails and keel serve as the primary muscle moving our mothership through time and space. We use our arms to steer and our legs follow in a stagger, but our legs have become sea.1

A Seed Ceremony at Center Botin, Santander celebrated the transition of Seed Journey to a land-based navigation over a perilous boundary with ad-hoc California crew; skipper, Professor, Igancio Chapela; First Mate Diego Peñaloza Jiménez and performance mate Hailey Baird.

A magnificent bundle of rope was an invitation to offer gifts to our land-based crew; indigenous corns, drawings, beans, medicinal plants and Seed Journey's rescue boat were improvisationally stacked.

Carrying a selection of all the seeds gathered on Seed Journey upon his back, Igancio led the crew in an intentional walk–conceived in the arc connecting Aristotelian peripatetic thinking and ancient memory arts—that crossed the mountains that have emerged from the tectonic tensions of this boundary, from the Cantabrian littoral to the Sierra del Escudo de Cabuérniga, the Picos de Europa past the Naranjo de Bulnes, and down the shepherd's way to the lakes of Covadonga and finally Cangas de Onís, where they were welcomed by the initiative INLAND - Campo Adentro, and their Shepherds' School.2

The first part of the traverse followed, roughly, what is called "Camino de las Harinas"—the Road of the Flour(s). Santander became the end-point of this road, which builds upon a Roman road, in the 17th C, to connect the fertile plains on the South side of the mountains with the international markets (esp. to America(s)). The Santander council said:

Goes without saying, flour is the nexus connecting Europe and America to Castille, via this Road. The real consequence of this road is not the volume that are exported through it, but the chains that emerge from its movement: commercial activity in the movement of grains, in the movement of colonial (read: American) and European manuffactures, industrial activity in the processing of castillian cereals, leather work, glass- and woodwork and, above all, the establishment of breweries.3

As colonial expansion has acted as a magnet pulling resources and cultures out of the Americas into Europe, so the peoples and existence of life within Europe has been changed through the domestication of plants and stories arriving from the "New World".4

The terrestrial legs of this trip, from the shipyards in Santander to the shepherds in Cangas de Onís consisted of an 8 segment journey passing through many different boundaries both physiographic and religious in nature. The start of this trail was symbolically the ending and starting point of the ships that carried people, plants, and ideas across the Atlantic Ocean to the Americas.

The path made by this walking holds the history of Colonization throughout the 16th century in reverse, retracing a signicant path that was walked by many merchants to bring seeds to the inland parts away from the Port of Santander.

Over the course of 7 days Igancio and crew exchanged seeds with shepherds, endured summer storms and came out singing in Covadonga, Cangas de Onís with seeds in tact and ready to continue further to Istanbul.

1 — As we crawl back onto land, I am reminded of a passage that Rebecca Solnit wrote for us some years ago, A step is an infinitely delicate, complex operation. Gravity shifts to one leg, the other peels itself off the earth and all its support and ventures out through the open air to stake a new position, solidly enough that it may become the pillar and the other leg the post. The leg extends beyond the body; the foot rolls down and the body shifts; the legs play tag with each other, hide and seek with gravity, and kiss and tell with geography, onward and onward, with balance always on the brink of being lost since upright walking is so precarious and preposterous an activity that no other species has entertained such a mode of locomotion. The rest of the land-based animal kingdom trots on the tablelike security of four legs, or scuttles on forty, or hops with bobbing neck and long feathered tail for seesaw balance, or just dispenses with legs altogether and slithers.

Magnificent Bundle eed Cermeomy, Santander, Spain, Botin Foundation. Photo: Amy Franceschini

2 — INLAND, started in 2009, is a project about an organization that engages territories, culture, and social change. During its first stage (2010-2013) and taking Spain as initial case study, INLAND comprised an international conference, artistic production with 22 artists in residence in the same number of villages across the country, and nationwide exhibitions and presentations.

Leg One: Virgen del Mar. Cantabric Sea, the Path to America, Seaward edge of the land-part of the Flour Route Santander, Spain, Botin Foundation. Photo: Amy Franceschini
Land Sea. Photo by Amy Franceschini

3 — «Imagine yourself suddenly set down surrounded by your gear, alone on the shore close to a small village, while the launch or dinghy which has brought you sails away out of sight. Since you take abode in the compound of some neighbouring white man, trader or missionary, you have nothing to do, but to start at once your ethnographic work.» - A variation on an excerpt from Argonauts of the Western Pacific : An Account of Native Enterprise and Adventure in the Archipelagoes of Melanesian New Guinea by Bronislaw, Malinowski.

Descending into village life. Searching for a place to sleep. Photo: Amy Franceschini

4 — Descripton of Ignacio's walk in an email to Seed Journey crew.

Descending into village life. Searching for a place to sleep. Photo: Amy Franceschini
Leg 6: The Casetón de Ándara - An old miners’ hut surrounded by abandoned zinc mine workings below the west face of Pico Macondiú, 1,999m. Photo: Amy Franceschini
Posted 13 July 2017
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