Food can be a good or a bad memory, a nostalgic element, a pleasure, a ritual, a cultural notion, a part of history, a real need, used as a weapon of war, a symbol, it can bring people together, it can delight, unify, it can tell a story, be a shared experience, and it is a basic human right, which should be available for all.
What is food and politics, what is gastro diplomacy, gastro-activism, these are terms that encompass several issues, such as food policy, history, heritage, trade, economy, supplies, health issues, sourcing, ingredients, and environmental concerns. Artists, chefs, writers, art organisations, have looked at those issues through a fusion of disciplines, working with food and art to highlight socio-political issues or to highlight food as an art, part of culture. Below are some of them, sharing here their engagement, check their websites for more information and to follow their important work.
Founded in London in 2013 by Daniel Fernández Pascual and Alon Schwabe, Cooking Sections explore environmental and climate concerns, historical and political notions, through food and the boundaries between art, architecture, ecology, geopolitics, via site-responsive installations, performances and video work.
"Their work has been exhibited at Tate Britain, Serpentine Galleries, SALT, Bonniers Konsthall, Lafayette Anticipations, Grand Union, Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh, Atlas Arts, HKW, SPACES, Storefront for Art and Architecture; the Taipei Biennial, 58th Venice Biennale, Istanbul Biennial, Cleveland Triennial, BAS9, Shanghai Biennial, Los Angeles Public Art Triennial, Sharjah Architecture Triennial, Sharjah Art Biennial, Performa17, Manifesta12, and New Orleans Triennial among others. They have been residents at Headlands Center for the Arts, California; Fogo Island Arts; and The Politics of Food at Delfina Foundation, London. They were guest professors at the Academy of Fine Arts, Munich in 2020-21. They are Senior Research Fellows and Principal Investigators at CLIMAVORE x Jameel at the Royal College of Art, London.
Cooking Sections were nominated for the Turner Prize in 2021, awarded the Special Prize at the 2019 Future Generation Art Prize and were nominated for the Visible Award for socially-engaged practices. Daniel Fernández Pascual is the recipient of the 2020 Harvard GSD Wheelwright Prize for Being Shellfish." @ https://www.cooking-sections.com
They have published 3 books: The Empire Remains Shop (2018), Salmon: A Red Herring (2020), and Offsetted (2022)
Offsetted published by Hatje Cantz, 2022
" Offsetted traces the emergence of the valuation of nature. The book unpacks forms of dispossession that are becoming more common through the protection—not only destruction—of natural environments. Through a series of artistic and architectural interventions, Offsetted ties into current struggles for climate justice worldwide, contesting neoliberalism as a saviour of its own ecological contradictions. It challenges conservation models based on “natural capital,” while proposing new spatial tactics to de-financialise the environment. Besides a photographic documentary and the works by Cooking Sections, the book assembles numerous contributions by interdisciplinary artists and scientists. "
Salmon: A Red Herring published @ isolarii, 2020
" Salmon is the colour of a wild fish that is neither wild, nor fish, nor even salmon. But they are not alone. The changing colours of species around the planet are warning signs of an environmental crisis. Many of these alterations result from humans and animals ingesting and absorbing synthetic substances. Changes in flesh, scales, feathers, skin, leaves, or wings give us clues to environmental and metabolic transformations around us and inside us. Salmon: A Red Herring questions what colours we expect in our ‘natural’ environment. It asks us to examine how our perception of colour is changing as much as we are changing the planet. "
The Empire Remains Shop @ Columbia Books on Architecture and the City, Columbia University Press, 2018
" "Empire shops" were first developed in London in the 1920s to teach the British to consume foodstuffs from the colonies and overseas territories. Although none of the stores ever opened, they were intended to make previously unfamiliar produce and products—sultanas from Australia, oranges from Palestine, cloves from Zanzibar, and rum from Jamaica—available in the British Isles. The Empire Remains Shop speculates on the possibility and implications of selling back the remains of the British Empire in London today. The pieces in this book use food to trace new geographies across the present and future of our postcolonial planet."
For more information on Cooking Sections: https://www.cooking-sections.com
Non-profit foundation, Delfina Foundation, facilitates artistic exchanges and developing creative practices through residencies, partnerships and public programming.
The foundation's thematic programme The Politics of Food which has been going for over 6 years, engages artists to work with food looking into issues and notions. The Politics of Food became a book, made of four sections: Food and Identity; Food Journeys; Food Futures; and Food and Hospitality. The book is made up of interviews, essays and contributions, highlighting how the arts can showcase food, climate and ecology issues, health and policy notions, science and biodiversity, identity and community, and look at global politics and ethics of food production, distribution and consumption.
Editors: Aaron Cezar (Founding Director, Delfina Foundation) and Dani Burrows (Director of Strategy, Delfina Foundation, 2013-2017)
Texts" Harry G. West, Raj Patel and Tim Lang
Conversations: Ferran Adrià and Marta Arzak; Tamara Ben-Ari and Asunción Molinos Gordo; Mark Hix and Patrick Holden; Michel Pimbert and Tomáš Uhnák; Michael Vazquez and Michael Rakowitz
Other contributions: Kathrin Böhm; Center for Genomic Gastronomy; Leone Contini; Cooking Sections; Chris Fite-Wassilak; Amy Franceschini and Michael Taussig; Fernando García-Dory; Melanie Jackson; Dagna Jakubowska; Nick Laessing; Jane Levi; Poppy Litchfield; Candice Lin; Christine Mackey; Taus Makhacheva; Elia Nurvista; Senam Okudzeto; Thomas Pausz; Daniel Salomon; Vivien Sansour; Standart Thinking; Serkan Taycan; Lantian Xie; Raed Yassin
Published by: Delfina Foundation and Sternberg Press, 2019
Delfina Foundation's exhibitions and events throughout the years, fusing food and art can be found on their website: https://www.delfinafoundation.com
Migration Museum UK: Around the Table: A Festival Exploring Food and Migration
"The Migration Museum explores how the movement of people to and from Britain across the ages has shaped who individuals, communities, and nations are." @ https://www.migrationmuseum.org
On the 9th September 2023, Migration Museum UK, held a festival delving into food and stories relating to migration, through creative workshops and talk events. The Migrant Makers stalls offered food from up-and-coming migrant-led food brands and chefs. Workshops included Fermenting Beyond Borders with Jelena Belgrave, a drop-in session with Jason Page to learn about the diverse food cultures that make up London, and preserving family recipes through writing and illustrating with author and food writer Angela Hui and illustrator and tattoo artist Georgina Leung. There was a panel discussion with food writer Jimi Famurewa; chef, author and restaurateur Cynthia Shanmugalingam; and Arber Gashi, writer, visual storyteller and founder of social media visual arts space Balkanism, on food markets, access to international produce, and the building of solidarity between migrant communities through trade.
For more information on The Migration Museum: https://www.migrationmuseum.org
Rohingyatographer is a non-profit photography magazine founded by Sahat Zia Hero. The magazine highlights Rohingya photographers living in the refugee camps in Bangladesh, showcasing the photographers raising awareness about the Rohingya community, documenting and sharing images of life in the refugee camp. Many of the photographers capture images that depict food traditions, preparations, a culinary heritage, as well as relay the hardships the Rohingya community sadly face, such as ration and food shortages. The magazine's third issue will feature traditional Rohingya food culture and recipes.
For more information on Rohingyatographer: https://www.rohingyatographer.org
On the Ghetto Gastro website, the collective define their name to mean: " ‘ghetto’ represents resilience, innovation and creativity—it means home; & the ‘gastro’ signifies our intention to revolutionize your palate in thoughtful ways." Founded in 2012 by Jon Gray, Lester Walker, Marquis Hayes, and later with chefs Malcolm Livingston II and Pierre Serrao, the collective use food as a tool to relay stories from their community and from the cultures that inspire them, "merging the cooking traditions of Black, brown, and Asian folks in a high-quality, healthy fashion" at the intersection of art, activism, fashion, design, and music. Ghetto Gastro have collaborated with Virgil Abloh, Massimo Bottura, and with Marvel Studios creating 'Taste of Wakanda' which promoted the superhero film Black Panther. Alongside the Bronx Oaxacan restaurant La Morada and the non-profit Rethink Food they distributed free meals to Black Lives Matter protesters. Their cookbook Black Power Kitchen uses food as a tool for social activism.
For more information on Ghetto Gastro: https://ghettogastro.com
"Based in Los Angeles, Fallen Fruit is an art collaboration originally conceived in 2004 by David Burns, Matias Viegener and Austin Young. Since 2013, Fallen Fruit is made up of David Burns and Austin Young. Creating maps of public fruit: the fruit trees growing on or over public property, their work includes photographic portraits, experimental documentary videos, and site-specific installation artworks. Using fruit (and public spaces and public archives) as a material for interrogating the familiar, the collective investigate interstitial urban spaces, bodies of knowledge, and new forms of citizenship. From protests to proposals for utopian shared spaces, their work aims to reconfigure the relationship of sharing and explore understandings of what is considered both — public and private." @ https://fallenfruit.org
“We are contemporary artists. We make art installations, and plant fruit trees in public space for everyone to share. We invite you to experience your City as a fruitful place, to radically shift public participation and the function of urban spaces, and to explore the meaning of community through creating and sharing new and abundant resources – like Fruit Trees.” – David Allen Burns and Austin Young / Fallen Fruit @ https://fallenfruit.org
"Fallen Fruit has been featured in 15 Los Angeles Artists to Watch, ARTnews (Cover); Artforum (Critic’s Pick), “Tasty and Subversive Too”, The New York Times, Conde Nast Traveler “18 -best shows in London”, “Food Matters” The New York Times. LA Confidential (Cover and Feature), “How Fallen Fruit is Changing the Art World & Life in LA.” Their work has been featured in The Idea of the West by Doug Aitken and numerous other publications The Omnivore’s Dilemma by Michael Pollan, Come Together: The Rise of Cooperative Art and Design by Francesco Spampinato (Princeton Architectural Press) as well as numerous broadcast radio, TV, video and blog venues."
For more about Fallen Fruit: https://fallenfruit.org
People's Kitchen Collective
People's Kitchen Collective (PKC) was founded in 2007 by Sita Kuratomi Bhaumik, Jocelyn Jackson, and Saqib Keval. The collective work at the intersection of art and activism through a food-centred project.
Highlighting justice, equity, and freedom, concerned with social issues, dedicated to eliminating all forms of racism, sexism, imperialism, and anti-classism, creative immersive experiences and practices are brought to the forefront, through sharing heritage, traditions, cultures, and family recipes that tell stories of migrations and resilience.
Through home cooked dishes, made with organic and local ingredients, they bring people together, with an aim to provide food for as many people as they can. Alongside free community meals, they run an educational programme to relay the politics and history of food.
for more information on People's Collective Kitchen: http://peopleskitchencollective.com
Multi-disciplinary contemporary visual artist, James Tylor's 'Australian Food Project' is a food based art project about Australian food, history and culture. This project explores developing new Australian cuisines using indigenous and non indigenous foods to relay the rich history of the country.
The artist's food project Rations : Australian Army Food, a collaboration with chef Shannon Fleming from Forgotten Seasons during Anzac Day 2019 at the Samstag Museum in Tarntanya Adelaide, South Australia. "We created five recipes that are influenced by important foods from the armed conflicts that Australia has been involved in since 1788. The conflict included Australian Wars (1788-1930's), New Zealand Wars (1845-72), Korean War (1950-53), Vietnam War (1955-75) and the two World Wars (1914-18 & 1939-45). The ingredients were carefully selected from military rations and civilian's staple diet that played important role during the wars. We used a combination of Australian indigenous foods and non-indigenous foods in all the recipes Many of the ingredients within the five dishes represent narratives in the conflicts such as food that were eaten by soldier or food that were damages or used as a weapon of war. The recipes were designed to give people an immersive experience through food to reflect on Australian evolvement in armed conflict both domestic or international." @ https://www.jamestylor.com
For more information on James Tylor food projects and art: https://www.jamestylor.com
Artist Michael Rakowitz's Enemy Kitchen, is an ongoing cookery workshop started in 2003, where the artist teaches food recipes from Iraq to different public audiences.
The project which also taught Iraqi cooking to children, turned into a food truck consisting of Iraqi chefs and American veterans from the US-Iraq War as sous-chefs, cooking and presenting food together.
With this project, artist Rakowitz wanted to render Iraq visible in the US that went beyond the images seen on the news, aiming to bring forth the stories of his family and of Iraqi heritage.
For more information check Michael Rakowitz website: http://www.michaelrakowitz.com
Up on Art Breath: Michael Rakowitz at the Victoria and Albert Museum
Food Unites: https://artbreath.org/coffee-talk/michael-rakowitz
Artist JR created an art installation for Le Refettorio Paris, a social restaurant by chef Massimo Bottura. The restaurant chefs use ingredients which many would think is waste, transforming the produce into an array of dishes. A community kitchen in the crypt of the church of la Madeleine, it "offers a welcoming dinnertime food service to people in situations of social vulnerability transforming surplus ingredients - that would otherwise be wasted - into delicious meals."
"The idea of Refettorio Paris was conceived by Food for Soul, a non-profit organisation founded by chef Massimo Bottura and Lara Gilmore to empower communities to fight against food waste through social inclusion.
The organisation began with creating Refettorio Ambrosiano in Milan in 2015 with subsequent projects launched in Brazil, London, Modena and Bologna.
The Refettorio can be visited, but dinner service is strictly accessible to guests and scheduled volunteers. The restaurant's cookbook, is filled with 37 inspiring zero waste recipes." For more information : https://www.refettorioparis.com