“9,000 Seeds” is a work of art by the Portuguese multimedia artist and performer Hélio de Jesus Pereira Mestre. By the summer of 2018, the project has had five years of preparation in the form of seed gathering and ritual in Norway, Croatia, Belgium, Mexico and Portugal. In the fall, it will achieve a new level of archiving through video, documentary and public installations.
The cyclic accumulation and distribution of 9,000 seeds represents both a beginning and ending. Although nine is the number for endings, it is also the number for wisdom and the “nine worlds of the Nordic cosmology”. In an interview, Hélio proclaimed his kinship with Joseph Beuys: “When humanity has the wisdom of the knowledge of the Portuguese Tree Planters to evolve through integration rather than self-destruction by separation, we will be on the path of caring for the ecology of the planet and worshipping the divine feminine again. We seek with this project to build on Beuys’ example of a renewed political and social consciousness. This was his triple goal: “a) an ongoing scheme of tree planting to be extended throughout the world as part of a global mission to effect environmental & social change (through) educational activities; b) a growth of awareness within the urban environment of the human dependence on the larger ecosystem educational outreach ; and c) an ongoing process whereby the society would be activated by means of human creative will social sculpture.” (1)
“9,000 Seeds” originated as a ritual in the Portugal village of Monsanto, northeast of Lisbon and on the border of Extremadura. Founded in 1165 by the first Portuguese king, Don Afonso Henriques, descendent of the Kingdom of Leon and Countess of Flanders. With the support of the crusaders, he conquered Lisbon in 1147 and therefore became known as El-Bortukali (o Portugali)
On around July 28, 2018, Hélio de Jesus Pereira Mestre designed a ritual reclaiming the seed from the corporate hegemony, Monsanto, named for the town as a center seed production. “In the land of my friends, there were two very old cork trees, which is a soft and light wood, which takes a long time to rot. I did a tree castle with the remains of the court branches on the ground. I built a tree castle, Yggdrasil (The Tree of Life/Axis of the World), on the foot of the hill of Monsanto to symbolise the ascent of the Tree People to take back the power of the genetically modified seed for the tree planting people.
The next day he went up the hill to the ruins of the Templar Castle with a handmade burlap bag dangling from his belt and with an organic local variety of seeds planting a sacred marriage mixing with lavender with three different sorts of fruit seeds to conceivably create through ancient alchemical tradition new varieties of fruit plant.
The project was extended down south to the islands in the shore of his native city of Faro (sand dunes strips formed in the Lisbon 1755 Earthquake) with the intent of vegetalizing the islands and preventing the erosion provoked by the impact of human development.
This extended the rituals initiated in 2013 performed in the Lost Theory Festival and the Modem Festival, both located in Croatia; 2014’s Midnight Sun Festival in Værøy Island of Norway’s Arctic Circle and 2015 rituals performed in Belgian’s Ardennen Forest and High Fens swamplands elevated 900 meters above the sea level (thereby implementing the synchronicity of the nine).
The mythology of the Portuguese Tree Farmers is sourced in the exchange of seeds between the westernmost nation on the European continent and the New World. The roots of this legend are between the Celts Druidic culture and the Lusitanian people (whose name comes from light), the Nordic Vikings, and later on, the Cathars to the East and the Templars. This legacy imparted the notion of a new archetypal reality into the New World, in which their explorations preceded that of the Portuguese sailors by way of the maps.
One possible origin of the word Portugal is Port-Grail, the port to the Holy Grail and the lost treasure discovered beneath Solomon’s Temple by the knights of the First Crusade. The kingdom of Portugal was separate from the Algarve, which means “west of Andalusia”. The Templar power was concentrated in the Spanish region known as Extremadura and Portugal. When the Spanish empire started expanding west through ravaging the forests to build their fleet, there was an uprising of the Tree People. A legacy of this revolt is the Portuguese family names of fruit trees, such as Laranjeira, Oliveira, Nogueira, Pereira, etc. Galicians say: “Menos mal que nos queda Portugal” (less evil that we still have Portugal).
Today, the Algarve, is contemplated with 320 days of sunlight annually, is Portugal’s biggest orange producer. In Dutch oranges are called Sinaasapple (Apples from China). In Turkish, Arab and Farsi, the fruit is called Portucal, meaning the fruit of light, the golden apple that Hercules had has a mission to collect in the Garden of the Hesperides. Portucal grown on trees from winter until summer originated the Nordic legend of the Christmas Tree bearing the fruits of the New Sun at the Winter Solstice throughout the annual cycle of Sun through the zodiac. The alchemical tree bearing light to remove Europe from the Dark Ages is the legend of Lucifer, Heralding the Dawn of a New Age.
The Tree of Life mythology of the cycle of death and rebirth is found in the 2012 end cycle of the Mayan calendar. The alignment of this cosmology with the Black Hole at the center of the galaxy is personified by the thirteenth constellation: Ophiuchus, the Serpent Bearer. José Argüelles’ call for a universal 13 Moon Calendar is a reflection of this cosmic consciousness. Therefore, the Portucal epistemology of the Tree Planting People of Port-Grail (Portugal), providers of the seed of light, connects them with the emergent archetype promoted by the Templar legend of the Lost Treasure honouring the Kundalini through the underground icon of the Black Madonna.
The 9,000 Seeds Project seems to extend the example of Joseph Beuys’ 7000 Oaks as an example of the thread that links the Situationist International’s approach to art. A 21st century consciousness regarding the hegemony of the multinational corporation and the use of technology to undermine the natural cycles and enslave humans to the capitalist system is supported by the creation of a new-modernist movement dedicated to the literal and figurative meaning of the seed and soil as a marriage of polar opposites united through the principle of cyclical and evolutionary growth. The project seeks to work within and outside the cultural institutions to continue Beuys’ integrative approach merging art, education, and environmental activism. It builds on the tradition that in 2000, academia (Center for Art, Design and Visual Culture (out of the University of Maryland, Baltimore County) developed the Joseph Beuys Sculpture Park and Joseph Beuys Tree Partnership and planted over 350 trees in various parks in Baltimore Parks with the help of over 500 volunteers including children from local schools. (2)
The inauguration of “9,000 Seeds” at the first Algarve Biennial organized around Beuys’ philosophy that ‘everyone can be an artist’ by acknowledging the creativity inherent in volunteers planting trees on their own. The goal of the project was also to “extend the traditional role of the art gallery so the gallery extends out into the city”. (3)
1. Joseph Beuys, Wikipedia.