During our week and a half at the Parlour Showrooms in Bristol, we wanted to get people thinking about food as they came into our space. Each day we asked about 100 people to tell us what they ate so far and what they were planning to have for tea later that evening. It was interesting to see how people’s eyes widened and faces lit up when we asked them to tell us about the meals they had cooked or were planning. It was also a great way to get people thinking about food experiences and to introduce some of the concepts we were looking to explore.
We magnified this theme by producing word clouds summarising what people told us each day. Of course, many of the summaries reflected our expectations – for example, roast was popular on Sunday and ice cream was highly represented on Wednesday – a particularly sunny and warm day in Bristol. However, we also suspected a bit of showing off…or perhaps some items were conveniently forgotten (I remain suspicious about the under-representation of chips, crisps, burgers and the like…).
In any event, the word clouds helped open a conversation about food at a quite intimate level. It was almost as if we stepped right into people’s kitchen or were seated at the breakfast table with them. In these discussions, we also noticed how words such as homemade, local, or fresh preceded many of the foods people listed. Indeed, many people took great pride in describing quite luxurious meals, their homemade marmalades and ultra-healthy wraps stuffed with veggies from their own garden or allotment. It was interesting to then introduce people to the world of almost exclusively tinned, processed foods which made up many of the meals of our community partners from The Matthew Tree Project. I found the juxtaposition encouraged reflection about where our food comes from and how lucky or privileged many people are to be able to access the food they want.
Here are a few of the word clouds from our time at the Parlour Showrooms.
After 10 days of baking, plucking, planting, talking and sharing, our Foodscapes exhibition at the Parlour Showrooms is now complete. During the week and a half around 900 people came through the space and talked to us about their experiences with food. We also baked bread with over 60 people – a fantastic way to share knowledge, stories and experiences. I will be posting lots of images here on this site. However, have a look at KWMC’s Connection Time for a photo diary of our experiences (http://whosedata.net/ct/foodsc).
You can follow the project through KWMC’s ‘Connection Time’ page found here: http://whosedata.net/ct/foodsc
In Foodscapes we seek to use art and creativity to engage with the micro-scale of individual relations with food and landscape in order to consider how traditionally elusive concepts such as sustainability and wellbeing might become more meaningful and relevant in daily practice. We seek to politicise these ideas by connecting them to mundane practices around producing, buying, cooking and eating. In essence, we aim to have important conversations about sustainability through the lens of food.
We are working with two main community groups in Bristol – the Edible Landscapes Movement (a consortium of local growers in Knowle West) and The Matthew Tree Project (a food poverty charity and local food enterprise in St Jude’s). Working collaboratively with these partners, Foodscapes taps into debates regarding the role of local and voluntary action in addressing complex urban challenges ranging from personal health and wellbeing to regional self-sufficiency and climate change.