On the 12th September the Critical Mass exhibition opened at Testing Grounds, with the ‘Food 4 Thought’ pods dispersed in the outdoor area. It was a fantastic place to share the work and we are really grateful to the Testing Grounds team for the opportunity! The superstructure on site made it really easy to hang the pods and they worked well in the urban environment, under the art center’s spire.
With the data still to be collated the responses were interesting, as were the conversations. The work definitely provoked thought and allowed for sharing from urban and city dwelling people about things like rats being a problem in the city when trying to compost. This of course lead to other discussions such as the alternatives to composting such as worm farms, prompting the question; what does one do in an urban environment with the humus??? From the reports I have read on Melbourne’s food bowl by VEIL and the recent IPCC report we really need to be considering how to produce and dispose of our food in more efficient ways. The call for greener urban environments, roof top gardens and urban food production needs to get louder. Even Ben van Beurden head of Shell Oil says a massive tree planting operation the size of the Amazon is needed along with alternative energy to challenge the 1.5 degree Celsius rise (Vaughan, 10/10/2018, theguardian.com)
There are a myriad of questions and solutions to disposing of our urban organic waste. The problem becomes larger too when we begin to look at the city as a whole, and I believe we actually need infrastructure in place to assist city dwellers and particularly those in apartments to dispose of their organic waste thoughtfully.
Interestingly this line of thinking is just what is needed now after the latest IPCC report on the drastic measures required to negate the warming of the planet. Every possible method of reducing carbon emissions is needed now! As an artivist I believe that it is up to us to do what we can where we can to alter our own behaviour. By removing the 40% of household waste that is made up of organic matter, from land fill we instantly reduce a great deal of methane being put into the atmosphere. This one small act in every home could make a massive difference if everyone was able to do it. So what we need to look at are the barriers that stop people from recycling their waste thoughtfully.
To sum up the installation had yet another successful iteration, with further data collected and slightly upgraded pods, ready for their next foray into the world.
The ‘Food for Thought’ installation is proud to be a part of the Melbourne Fringe Festival in the Critical Mass collective. From the 12th of September to 22nd September you can find the pods hanging in the magic outdoor space of the Testing Grounds Gallery. Bring the kids or that random friend who likes to embarrass you by poking and prodding art. We’re keen to have you all engage with the installation. Details are below. You can also check out this video tour of the Food for Thought installation as it was in Rainbow Serpent Festival earlier this year.
Critical Mass @ Testing Grounds
1 City rd South Bank, Melbourne
Opening night Wednesday 12th Sep 6-9pm
Exhibition 12-22nd September
A crowding of crucial ideas, bringing together visual art installations, new media, conversations and projection. It is a space for an audacious community to gather and experience ambitious, experimental and critical art. Explore ideas about feminism, queer politics, technology, environment and mental health. Add your own crucial idea to the exhibition by painting a placard, exhibited around the Testing Grounds site.
In January 2018 I launched the creative installation, Food For Thought, at Rainbow Serpent music festival, an internationally renowned festival drawing over 20, 000 people for a 4 day weekend of music and creativity in the Victorian bush. The installation sought to engage festival goers into dialogue about fresh food consumption and waste practices. I asked, where does your fresh produce come from and where do you put the waste? The bigger question behind this installation is one of how we can achieve sustainability and resilience within our food systems.
The creative research method crosses the disciplinary boundaries of artistic practice and social research. As an interactive installation the work has an educational and research basis, grounded in empirical evidence. The installation was designed for creative play, conversation and contemplation, while asking simple survey questions that allowed us to illustrate the consumption and waste practices of festival-goers. Alongside this, I collected ethnographic insights with my collaborators on the kinds of conversations and experiences people shared with each other whilst engaging with the installation.
Visually, the installation consisted of seven ‘pods’, each approximately 170cm tall, hung from trees, and lit up at night. The pods held information inside them relevant to either the consumption or waste of fresh produce. Participants were asked to answer a simple question by clicking a hand counter located inside the pods. Icons inside the pods then allowed for participants to get a sense of their own food print profile from the accompanying information board. You can see more on the food prints at internalart.com.au if you want to explore your own.
We estimate from the observed interactions and survey data that around 5000 people actively engaged with the research side of the project. Throughout the long weekend, while the installation was in place at the music festival, we observed numerous types of interactions ranging from vague acknowledgement that a pod was hanging down in front of their face and they needed to step around it to people settling down within the space and actively engaging with the work. Children would run through and around spinning the pods so that the tendrils would splay out to reveal the openings leading to further interaction. We also overheard conversations within the space of people discussing their consumption and waste practices with others and how their food print influenced their lifestyles and practices. I also witnessed a grown man hanging and swinging off one of the pods – not the ideal behaviour an artist wants to see happening to their work, – but good to see that it was robust and resilient enough to take it.
A key finding of the research to date is the guilt felt by many people. We found it interesting to observe some participants’ sense of guilt or shame for their consumption and waste practices. Working together with my collaborators, including Dr Alexia Maddox, we have run three ‘food for thought’ creative interactive research data collection installations, with the installation at Rainbow being the latest iteration at the research. Previously, insight on the high levels of consumption guilt (not linked to behaviour change) began through the first two installations. The first of the installations was initially conducted in a gallery through a large community created artwork and the second at a market stall where children and adults alike added potato stamps to the initial collaborative piece. During both works we occupied the installation space and struck up conversations with people about the work. The shame or guilt became known when participants made their marks on the canvas, along with statements like ‘I wish I could say that I do differently, but I shop at the supermarket and I dispose of the organic waste in the rubbish bin’. On occasions people would also express that they felt as though they had little control over these patterns of consumption and waste. These insights have led us to other questions asking how we can as a society make it easier for people to behave in ways that they know are good for the planet. This finding on consumption guilt raised in the first two installations was cemented for us during the festival weekend.
This installation is part of a long-term research project, a work in progress that I hope to install into a variety of places in order to gather data so as to map the consumption and waste habits around Victoria. The purpose of this mobile practice and multi-sited installation work is to collect representative data from people across the greater Melbourne region to creatively map the fresh food consumption and waste patterns. This final component of the installation will draw together the other creative works into a collective installation including my large-scale paintings of vegetables.
Human interaction and perception of the natural world is the common theme of all my work and as an artist and anthropologist and I am thoroughly enjoying the merging of the two disciplines. My new works aim to focus more upon memory spaces, value systems, and the ways in which humans engage with the natural world be it through the extraction of resources, waste production or recreational activities. By designing creative low-tech interactive art installations, it is my aim to ask for a contribution from participants so as to stimulate thought, conversations and input on how we as a species relate to the natural world……and possibly find new innovative ways to relate to the planet in a positive manner that is reflective of different ontological understandings of the natural world.
So it has been about a month since the festival and we have been busy collating the data. Overall the installation was successful, and it looked great on the festival grounds, it took us a couple of days as a team to get the 7 pods in place….As you can see from the few photos below the pods were interacted with in different ways. They were also quite stunning in the night, this may explain why there seemed to be more interaction through out the nights.
We had a great time setting them up and talking to people about the purpose behind them. It was hoped that people would find them visually stimulating objects that they could play with, and once that curiosity was stimulated it was my hope that through the play people would find that there was more to it than just a pretty installation. Inside each of the pods was information about consumption and waste practices which would lead people to find out more about their own ‘foodprint’. Then they could check the information board and learn more about their foodprint profile using the icons from the inside of the pods.
We would like to thank the Rainbow Organisers for this opportunity, and the Rainbow cultural arts foundation for offering a small grant for us to make this happen! Stay tuned for further information and a full write up of the data collected.
I look forward to the next iteration of ‘food for thought’!
Early in 2017 I was interested in getting a creative food mapping project going. As an artists and anthropologist I wanted to find ways to integrate my creative side with the more academic practice of research. So with a little help I ended up setting up a small market stall at Ecotopia, a community festival in Yarra Junction. The aim of the stall was to cultivate interest and conversation about fresh food consumption and waste patterns. This was the first incarnation of the food for thought project. I had some extremely interesting conversations, while numerous children and adults took part in creating images of their favorite fruits or vegetables….
The second incarnation of the project eventuated through an Art Rangers Network grant called an Arts Seed Pod. This version was much more thought out and thanks to Forestedge Stone Gallery, located in Kallista’s permaculture nursery, I managed to line up an exhibition in conjunction with the project. This gave me the opportunity to present my recent vegetable paintings within the exhibition while also getting the project up and running. Using egg tempura and earth ochres on canvas people answered survey questions showing where they sourced their fresh produce and how they disposed of the organic waste. During this exhibition the Kallista Choir performed several food related songs. This event was highly successful.
The second event was run at Healesville market on the 5th of November where community members added their information onto the same canvas. This resulted in the creative representation that you can see below.
The Arts seed pod project was an excellent opportunity to grow the idea and concept, with the support of the Art Rangers Network. Mandy provided regular contact and conversation that helped to maintain my motivation.
Having completed the Art Seed pod project, my friend Alexia and I began to work on the submission for Rainbow Serpent Festival. In a short period of time we managed to put together the concept for the new and latest incarnation of the food for thought project.
We’re so excited to have checked out the site for the Food for Thought installation at this year’s Rainbow Serpent Festival (2018). Looks like we’ll be based at the entrance of the lifestyle village and will happily see the pods hanging from a tree near the Village gate and just opposite the market area. Resonating with the sounds from the Chill stage, we’ll be creating a walking space curated through found objects and studded with the pods hanging from the trees.
Here’s a few early pics of the site just to get things started and keep you updated with the installation as we create and install it.
This two pics is artist, Dianna Tarr, showing that, yes, you can poke your head inside them. Curious to see what’s inside?
This pic is the first hanging of a ProtoPod on site to test the idea in reality. It’s going to be awesome!
These pods are not only beautiful during the day but they will glow at night.
When sourcing your fresh food from a retailer, the distance that your food has travelled to you can be difficult to know. This information is a part of its food-print and good to know when you purchase a product.
Large multinational supermarkets often only label the country of origin on fresh produce. For example, you may find that your strawberries or mango’s might say which state in Australia they are grown, but this tends to be specific to particular fruits or vegetables.
A typical supermarket will provide similar veggies all year round, even outside of their local growing season. This is because they can source them from different regions within Australia and import them from other countries. You might see that your garlic has come from China.
How far has your food travelled?
Australia imports about 10% of all its fresh food, however considering the size of the country this still means that food must travel vast distances. If for example, you buy oranges imported from the USA or California, that fruit has travelled over 12000km to get to you.
How much water does it take to produce?
41 litres of water to grow a broccoli,
1 serve of chicken takes 1250 litres of water,
1 serve of steak takes 4660 litres of water
Where does the waste go?
15-28% of a households greenhouse gas emissions are created by food
x% or $ amount of fresh produce is dumped by supermarkets every year
Food waste is equal to $6 billion a year in Australia