Artist Basia Irland’s books sow the seeds of both knowledge and actual plants.
Is there hope for plant life in the widespread ice melt that’s caused by climate change? Most plants wouldn’t be able to say so, but artist Basia Irland’s project Ice Receding/Books Reseedingputs an interesting spin on an impending ecological reality by encouraging the appreciation of individual plant species and their interdependency with local water systems – a topic she has repeatedly addressed in her work. This project was originally created for “Weather Report,” a groundbreaking exhibition about climate change from 2007 that took place in Boulder, Colorado, where a glacier that provides much of the drinking water is rapidly melting. Today, Irland encases the seeds of local plant species in blocks of frozen water, arranging the seeds in shapes that suggest an “ecological language” or “riparian [on the bank of a natural watercourse] text.”
She then places these “books” back into the native streams from which the water was frozen, where they reinvigorate the local ecosystem by “helping sequester carbon, mitigating floods and drought, pollinating other plants, dispersing seeds, holding the banks in place (slowing erosion), creating soil regeneration and preservation, acting as filters for pollutants and debris, supplying leaf-litter (for food and habitat), promoting aesthetic pleasure, and providing shelter/shade for riverside organisms including humans,” she writes on her website.
Aside from the beauty of the ephemeral sculptures, Irland’s “book launches” are also events in their own right, attended by local groups of people who have a stake in the waters and lands. Participants at the Nisqually River in Washington, she says, included local tribal members and salmon restoration specialists, while attendees in New Mexico on the Rio Grande included college students and hydrologists.
While stream ecologists, biologists and botanists help Irland choose the plant species that are best for each area, setting up the future for each rejuvenated zone, it’s ultimately Irland herself who likes to get her hands dirty. “Irland shares a legacy with intrepid 19th century naturalists, and is utterly heedless of wet, dirt and cold. Along with paddling canoes and waterproofing her hiking boots, she’s handy with a microscope in the service of her art, not to mention collegial goals with biologists, botanists, and stream ecologists,” writer Malin Wilson said of her work. Hopefully she will be traveling and teaching for many years to come.