The reasons for my participation in the Sustainability Day event were layered. Primary is that of participating in community and getting to know people where I live. The studio is a place of quiet which I relish, but interactions are crucial for this artist to feel part of the larger picture. The whole Eco -future scenario is one I feel too important to leave to others...nor do I feel it is viable to carry on as an artist without looking at the various ways our work can be in tune with current concerns. Its been no sudden leap for me to address the future of seeds as I have long been drawn to seedpods and other botanical
forms in my studio work, collecting things on walks over the years and almost absorbing at times the forms without reflection on where they were starting from. Travels in Southern Europe 2 decades ago, particularly a 4 months stay in Greece, sensitised me to things about food cultures I had not fully appreciated before... even though my childhood was connected with agricultural realities due to growing up in a rural area of eastern Australia and having relatives involved in farming. In the summer of 1987 those 4 months in the Pelopponese and various Islands (my longest spell on the quiet Island of Ikaria) introduced me to a kind of tightly woven relationship between land and sea and the table that I'd had no previous experience of at that time. Non indigeneous Australians have imported their food cultures along with their migrants since first settlement in 1788. Animals and crops were brought from the old world to the new world...some experimentation occured with what was here already, no doubt starvation fueled some of that.The critically problematic relationship between indigenous peoples and new-comers resulted in valuable lessons about what was here not being learned, except in rare cases where respect was communicated. Australia's cuisine was therefore a boiled down/added to version of the anglo-celtic diet for year after year...until the presence of peoples from the Mediterranean..and other origins began to capture our taste-buds and lure us into new culinary thinking. 4 months in Greece made me question so much of what till then had occupied my thinking re food and its place in our everyday lives. Probably the most influential book I read after my time in the Aegean that furthered this thinking was Patience Gray's HONEY FROM A WEED: Fasting and Feasting in Tuscany, Catalonia, the Cyclades and Apulia ...not so much because it was a text book for the kitchen...but rather because it hit a deep core of truth in me. I quote from her book:
"good cooking is the result of a balance struck between frugality and liberality... it is born out in comunities where the supply of food is conditioned by the seasons. Once we lose touch with the spendthrift aspect of nature's provisions epitomised in the raising of a crop, we are in danger of losing touch with life itself. When Providence supplies the means, the preparation and sharing of food takes on a sacred aspect...".
An extraodinary book that does not romanticise the food cultures that evolved in these regions...rather it spells out the hard work, the lacks suffered, the fact of illiteracy...and out of these truths of living in sync with the land the poetry arises through the fact of seeing deeply the rhythms of the life in these places.This book gave me a sense of wonder and simultaneously a strong sense of unease that has left me with so many questions about contemporary life and where food comes in to it and the way we produce what we participate in.
getting set up...making sure things are ready!
The brochure I produced for the day contained a statement about what's been occurring in the realm of seeds and future directions and planning...with weblinks to key organisations addressing these concerns. Interesting conversations were had and many took the brochure to read further. Producing small works and things for an event like this is an interesting discipline from time to time...I love the way it brings new energy into my studio and things get worked out in small exercises that feed into the larger more intense work I do later. The opportunity to meet people in this context can also lead to a more relaxed but nevertheless enlivening engagement than one might find possible in the gallery context and one's contact list grows in a pleasant, organic way.