BRUEGEL AWAKENS. Seed Journey moves from Pajottenland to Antwerp through Pieter the Elder Bruegel

"We are young peasants with fertile dreams and landscape-wide aspiration. But there is more... On our farms we have a dream of being as autonomous as possible. We want to shape networks of producers and consumers in order to create a solid 'market' that cover the needs of a society. In this aspiration when we think about grain, we think of bread."

  • Tijs Boelens, farmer, Pajottenland, Belgium during a Seed Ceremony in a rehabilitated watermill.

During a two-day action, Futurefarmers' Seed Journey charted the journey of a 500- year-old grain that was found by archaeologists in a church in Pajottenland, Belgium in 2015. In an attempt to awaken this grain Futurefarmers hosted a Seed Ceremony with a group of local farmers, the church secretary and a paleobotanist followed by an inland voyage.

Eariler this year, a group of farmers from Pajottenland, Belgium contacted us to ask if their discovered grain could join Seed Journey to Istanbul. After several conversations, we decided that the grain should be called Bruegel Grain since it was found in the same region where Pieter the Elder Bruegel had painted his numerous landscape paintings populated by farmers. In fact, if this grain joined the journey, it would be our first "artist in residence" on board.

On the first day of April, in 2017, (a day of fools) farmers, millers and bakers gathered at Heetveldemoelen (watermill) in Tollembeek around a table on the second floor. Surrounded by the milling apparatus and the lingering dust from the fields of grains being transformed into flowing flour, a roomful of curious locals, urban farmers a1d local press focused on the awakening of this Bruegel Grain.

We asked the roomful of people to imagine Pieter Bruegel (the Elder) awakening after hundred of years of sleep- to imagine through new eyes their surroundings – here - where images like The Harvesters were created in 1565.1

We can already see in this painting that the hand and land co-exist – " This landscape is impossible without these people, just as the people are impossible without this place. Each gives the other function and meaning. The painting connects the dots of a newly expanding economy, depicting the peasants as the heart of a system that profits only those at the far end."2

Upon the table was a constellation of bags and bottles and bundles of grains brought by each farmer and the Seed Journey "rescue boat" filled with seeds collected along Seed Journey thus far.

"Our mothership, RS 10 Christinia, carries an ingeniously crafted mini-boat, like a chalice, containing handfuls of old wheat and rye seeds found in the Vavilov Institute in Saint Petersburg in Russia and in the roof beams of a sauna in northern Norway. These seeds are like jewels. The disproportion in size between the small chalice and the mother vessel carrying it symbolises preciousness, as does the very idea of a prolonged voyage using wind and sail as the means of propulsion."

  • Michael Taussig

The chared, Bruegel grains, found in St. Martin's church were placed into a large hourglass, (Futurefarmers' Seeds of Time vessel) and three farmers, the church secretary and a paleobotanist spoke about the ancient grain. We invited all the guests to focus on awakening the found grain– to imagine Bruegel awakening after 500 years of sleep. What would he see in this contemporary landscape?

As the exchange of knowledge and seeds populated the room, the charred grains witnessed the collective imaginings of the guests followed by a sonic séance with Hans Beekers. A range of instruments were sprinkled upon tables and embedded into the mill. Simple electronic tools were used to amplifly flour, grains and baking tools used to summon the life potentiality in the Bruegel Grain.

Following the Seed Ceremony, the participants carried the Bruegel Grains out of the mill to the river de Mark where Futurefarmers' Bruegelesque Canoe Oven awaited them. The grains were given to two rowers who carried them to Antwerp via the inland waterways de Mark, Dender and Schelde where it joined the mother ship of Seed Journey.

The Canoe Oven followed the route that used to carry grain to Antwerp to be stored and then sent further on into the world by boat. Now dotted with suburban houses, parks, industry and waterfront re-development where silos and the sounds of labor connected to the shipping industry once roared.

Now the Bruegel Grain carries on to Istanbul aboard RS 10 Christiania where it is shared with other farmers.

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