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The Food Thing
byJeanette Doyle. May 2013

'The food thing' is an ongoing, open-ended, collaborative project which emerged from GradCAM, the Graduate School of Creative Arts and Media, Dublin.  

'The food thing' is an ongoing, open-ended, collaborative project which emerged from GradCAM, the Graduate School of Creative Arts and Media, Dublin.  This project centres around the production, preparation, consumption, exchange and discussion of food stuffs, and critically, the politics and economic conditions which determine and are determined by food production. An ongoing concern of 'the food thing' is that of making strange normal relations.  It is a vibrant, discursive, relational and performative project. 'The food thing' is concerned with the macro politics and economic implications of consumption and how this relates to the very intimate conditions of what we ingest and ultimately becomes us.

An early iteration of this project comprised a series of 'Recipe Salons' held in Rialto, Dublin 8 commencing in February 2012.  At the salons, recipes were shared and tested by Mick Wilson, Cliona O Sullivan and Jeanette Doyle for inclusion in the proposed GradCAM cookbook. These salons were open to anyone who wished to attend and the only thing guests were asked to bring along with them was a recipe. The salons were each concerned with a particular topic, and were accompanied by a web published text by Mick Wilson. For instance 'what's a steak?' was themed around its co-incidence with International Women's Day and the salon catered for a group of performance artists who were participating in 'LABOUR' a touring exhibition of Live Art and involving eleven female artists.  This was the culmination of a performance art symposium and series events held that day in The LAB Dublin.  Another significant salon was called 'To be in the place of mloukhieh' which entailed the re-enactment of a video work by Palestinian artist Larissa Sansour called 'Soup over Bethleham'.  This piece talks about the politics associated with the vegetable mloukhieh, it's importance to the Palestinian people, the difficulty involved in sourcing it and related issues around the exportation of food from Bethleham and the infringements on personal travel associated with 'occupation'.  This work reflects the food thing's interest in the global relations of food.  This performance was filmed in the fashion of an ad hoc documentary whilst the participants ate dishes which incorporated mloukhieh as the main ingredient echoing Sansour's original work. This piece was subsequently shown at the Liverpool Biennale, (September 2012) The Living Art Museum, Iceland (February 2013) and the LAB Gallery Dublin as part of Mick Wilson's exhibition, 'some songs are sung slower' (March 2013).

From these Salons emerged a banquet 'of the salt bitter sweet sea' for the Tall Ships Festival.  This was a five course feast for a hundred people which centred around concerns associated with the era of tall ships, colonisation, the slave trade and the contribution of long range travel to the international exchange of capital, goods and people.  This took place in the Vaults of CHQ in Dublin, it was curated by Sheena Barrett and funded by Dublin City Arts Office. The event was open to members of the public who booked through The Arts Office.  The first course was a sampler of dips and breads from around the world which incorporated ingredients, for instance limes, which had implications for the health of sailors and also avocados which had until this age of travel only been locally available.  The breads were all flatbreads echoing the first recipe salon which was themed 'the flatbread earth'. This course was provided by Oilbhe Madden, Tara Carrigy, Derbhla Gowen, Juno Hegarty and Jeanette Doyle another course was a paella made using squid ink and octopus reminiscent of the deep sea made by Lisa Godson and Martin McCabe, the third an ornate dish of pork and salad by Merlyn Riggs, Nuno Sacramento and Dane Sutherland and a sugar laden desert referencing the importance of the sugar to the slave trade, this desert was finished off with a cast chocolate rat and was made by Edia Connole, Brian Hunt and Emer Roberts.  The fifth and final course was a selection of cheeses, pastes and bracks which referred to preservation and rotting and was provided by Mick Wilson Cliona O Sullivan and Jeanette Doyle, catered by Sheridan's Cheesmongers.

Also curated by Sheena Barrett was a special one- off event for the Liverpool Biennale 'Break Bread Open' where the food was provided by M.O.U.T.H (Edia Connole and Scott Wilson).  The evening incorporated amongst other events the screening of 'to be in the place of mloukhieh', a performance by artist Jesse Jone's as well as a conversation on the theme of hospitality between Paul O'Neill and Declan Long. It was also funded by Dublin City Arts Office in collaboration with CREATE and Temple Bar Gallery and Studios.

In 2012 the food thing  with GradCAM researchers and fellows (including Rana Ozturk and Georgina Jackson) also collaborated with Robin Kahn and the Women of Western Sahara in a project called 'In The Tent' for dOCUMENTA(13).  As indicated by the title of the project this took place in a tent in Kassel where tea was served by researchers and fellows from GradCAM. Information was provided and discussions held regarding the plight of the Women of Western Sahara in the face of lack of recognition within the International political community.

A forthcoming project (June 2013) is a collaboration with 'Gracelands' and a community garden in Dublin 8.  This will take place in St. Andrew's Resource Centre, Dublin 8 and in the garden itself. 'Gracelands', the food thing and the Community Garden on the South Circular Road are working to produce a menu and programme of events which are specially designed for a very local context, that of a community garden and resource centre in Dublin 8. The recipes and artworks will be carefully selected to coincide with the concerns of the communities based in the centre. Members of the community garden are also planting fresh produce specifically for the occasion and this will to a large extent determine the menu. The menu will also be informed by the programme of artworks which will include objects, films and performances reflecting the very specific physical and social context for the event.

Gracelands' focus for this project is to propose the potential of the practice of curating as a focussed local ‘service’, using artworks as a mechanism for thinking around the formal and ideological concerns of particular communities. Gracelands has developed a way of programming which engages the audience very directly in the delivery of works. The rough frame work of the event as a whole is premised on foraging, foraging for food and foraging for existing artworks.  During the lead up to the event Vaari Claffey (Gracelands), Jeanette Doyle (the food thing) and Seoidin O Sullivan (the Community Garden) are occupying a studio in St. Andrew's Community Centre to develop the project facilitated by Common Ground. Research in the studio is happening in tandem with building relationships with the groups who occupy the centre and who use it as a social space and resource. This event is to be called 'The Producers'. This emerges from considerations of the production of food, the production of meals, the production of artworks and how what we consume produces both political and fiscal economies and also the very material of our bodies themselves.

For further information please see:

http://www.gradcam.ie/food_thing.php

http://www.gradcam.ie/food_thing/cookbook_paper01.pdf

http://www.inthetent.org/research/

http://www.gracelands.eu/

http://southcirculargarden.blogspot.ie/

Jeanette Doyle. June 2013