Seed Project by Saburo Ota
Seeds of plants can ride on a breeze because of their lightness; they burst open and stick on humans and animals with their hooks. Seeds have found many ways to go other places than the places they originate in. Stamps can go further by putting them on a card and mailing them. I thought, if I can put seeds on a stamp, I could bring them more far than by natural power. So, I had started creating works by putting seeds on Japanese paper. At that time, 1991, I was living in Tokyo and on the weekends I took my sons to a large park. Little children like the tiny things they can pick up. While spending time with them, it looked like I myself, had started to become interested in small seeds.
On the stamps I created with these seeds, I printed the place and the date where the seed was collected, as well as the name of the plant. Plants can only grow in particular places and under the right conditions, and seeds have a specific time to grow. I am recording my existence by collecting postmarked stamps. I think I could say that, seeds of plants themselves also express time and place.
My seed project consists of three parts: collection, conservation and sowing. Putting the seeds in a frame is ‘conservation’, putting the seed on a stamp, putting the stamp on a special postcard and then mailing that card, that is ‘sowing’. At the beginning I was sowing my seeds any time people wanted, so I had no time to put stamps in a frame. I did put separate stamps in a Petri-dish and exhibited that, but later my main form of presentation became eight stamps on a framed sheet. The number of seeds and the structure of the arrangement on the stamp are dependent upon what kind of seeds they are. The smaller grains and flatter seeds are the most useful for my work.
In the spring of 1994 my oldest son was entering primary school. Because of this my family decided to move to Tsuyama in Okayama, Japan. Tsuyama is my wife’s hometown. It has a relatively mild climate throughout the year and it is surrounded by fields, a mountain, forest and has a river. It is very green there. The following year, 1 January 1995, I started to collect seeds there as a daily routine. One year, 365 days, each day is somebody’s birthday or celebration day, so if I do not miss one day in creating my work, this is how I can connect with all people. Actually, for every season certainly some kinds of seeds exist. It looks like as if all kinds of life die out in the desolate winter fields and hills, but in fact, they contain treasures of seeds. I take the seeds into my hand and when I imagine them sprouting and blooming, I get a positive feeling about the future.