• Dornith Doherty

Archiving Eden: Exchange

Dornith Doherty

November 20, 2019 — May 3, 2020

Floor 1

Archiving Eden: Exchange presents x-ray images of 5,000 seeds — the smallest number required to preserve a single plant species. Housed within a vault-like structure, the installation by artist Dornith Doherty comes to life during seed exchange events, where visitors are invited to remove an image from the vault’s walls and replace it with a transparent envelope containing a single Canadian seed. Over time, the installation will change both physically and visually: from representational to actual, dark to light.

The seeds available for exchange are representative of common agricultural crops grown in Canada, including soy, corn and beans, as well as a variety of native wild plant species. The black-and-white x-rays lining the installation’s walls were captured by Doherty in collaboration with scientists at several international seed banks. 

MOCA presents Archiving Eden: Exchange as the fifth installment of Art in Use, a series devoted to exploring the ways in which museums can be socially and politically useful. With Archiving Eden: Exchange, viewers are encouraged to examine their collective responsibility to care for the environment while reflecting on the monumental effort required to safeguard biodiversity. At the close of the exhibition, the 5,000 seeds will be donated to the Toronto Botanical Garden Seed Library — a collection of vegetable, herb and flower seeds that growers can borrow from and donate to.


Dornith Doherty is an artist whose work is concerned with our stewardship of the natural environment. Her photographic project Archiving Eden, is an extensive body of work that documents the complex issues surrounding the role of science and human agency in preserving biodiversity. Collaborating with scientists and seed banks on five continents, she has traced in precise detail the elaborate systems of secure spaces and technological interventions required for botanical preservation. Doherty is a 2012 Guggenheim Foundation Fellow, and her work has been exhibited widely in the US and internationally. She is currently a Distinguished Research Professor at the University of North Texas. 


Archiving Eden: Exchange was originally developed as part of Idea Projects, a partnership programme between MOCA and the Ontario Science Centre that provided studio residencies to artists exploring science and technology through artistic practice. Idea Projects was on from September 15, 2018, to September 15, 2019, and was curated by Ana Klasnja. 

Ideas Projects Participating Artists:

Jude Abu Zaineh, Nicole Clouston, Dornith Doherty, Christine Germano, Milumbe Haimbe, Günes-Hélène Isitan, Natasha Naveau, Joel Ong, PA System (Alexa Hatanaka and Patrick Thompson), Ekaterina Smirnova, SYSTEM Sounds (Matt Russo and Andrew Santaguida), Tosca Teran, and Elaine Whittaker.

With Special Thanks To: 

Sayeh Dastgheib-Beheshti; City of Toronto, Parks, Forestry and Recreation; North American Native Plant Society; Ivana Obradovic; Ontario Horticultural Association; Royal Botanical Gardens; Seeds of Diversity; Scotiabank CONTACT Photography Festival; Smithsonian Early Enrichment Center; Toronto Botanical Garden; Toronto Master Gardeners; Toronto Urban Growers; and USC Canada.

Seed Exchange Dates (1–4pm)
Dates subject to change. Please visit moca.ca/calendar for the latest schedule.


Saturday, December 7
Saturday, December 21
Sunday, December 29


Friday, February 14
Saturday, February 15
Monday, February 17
Sunday, February 23
Saturday, February 29
Saturday, March 14
Monday, March 16–March 20 (March Break)
Saturday, March 28
Sunday, March 29
Saturday, April 11
Monday, April 13
Saturday, April 25
Sunday, April 26
Saturday, May 2
Sunday, May 3

Art in Use Hesty TD
Dornith Doherty, Vault: Exchange (detail), Installation view at the Ontario Science Centre Toronto, Canada. April – August 2019.