Foodscapes is an arts research project that invites you to explore an altered edible landscape which reveals and remixes the everyday realities and rituals of a food poverty charity, greenhouse, bakehouse and kitchen.
From making a food bank parcel last a week to organic delights delivered to your door; from nurturing a crop of window box lettuce to the weekly supermarket shop, Bristol’s foodscapes are many and varied. But do we get the food we want or the food we need? And what roles do dignity, choice, aesthetics, health or nutrition play?
Foodscapes is a collaboration between artist Paul Hurley, Knowle West Media Centre, academic researchers (Dr Emma Roe from the University of Southampton and Dr. Michael Buser from The University of the West of England) and community partners which include a food poverty charity (The Matthew Tree Project), a growers collective (Buried Treasure) and bread bakers (The Bread Cafe). Together we are investigating social and economic exclusion, food poverty, sustainability and how alternative food systems might engage with these issues.
The project is producing a series of artist-led interventions to explore the role of art in creating more sustainable local food policy and practice.
As part of Foodscapes we polled the people of Bristol on what they’d been eating over a week during June 2013. We used a mix of one-to-one interviews, Twitter, and texting. Over 800 people took part.
At the meta-Bristol level there were some distinctive patterns: Sunday is still special with people going big on scrambled eggs and roasts; on Monday and Tuesday there was a push to start the week healthy powered by yogurt and muesli; a mass need for carbs by Thursday; and on Friday food patterns all went a bit haywire!
At the micro-level, individual people had very diverse food strategies or “techniques or existence”, from someone who only ate red and green things, to the man who started everyday with imported cherry juice.
Foodscapes set up shop in the Parlour Showrooms for 10 days of bread baking. In the heart of the city, opposite City Hall, Foodscapes mixed up a shop, greenhouse, art gallery, bakery and a cosy kitchen table that people were invited to bake bread and share a conversation around.
Foodscapes quickly became a food knowledge hub, with master bakers, growers, and the curious coming in and sharing their tips, recipes, best kneading techniques and even songs.
Foodscapes was hosted by artist Paul Hurley, who started an amateur baker and by the end of the week was a master of pizzas, soda bread, sour dough and more.
In discussions about food, we often find ourselves prone to projections, aspirations and clichés – what we think we (and others) should eat, what we’d like to buy more often, how we’d like to source or grow food, how we’d like to be eating. But the everyday realities of our individual and collective food landscapes are often quite different.
Disposable cameras were distributed to a number of people involved in the Foodscapes project – clients and volunteers at The Matthew Tree Project, as well as the artist and researchers. We all spent a week photographing what we ate, noticing the repetitions, the techniques of existence we used, the embarrassment, the presentational details and also the gaps.
The photos were presented as part of an exhibition at the Parlour Showrooms. The images were given anonymously, but we’d like thank all who were involved: G, A, M, H, S, C, V, K, A, K, P, E, S, M, D, T & M.