"The residency between Touchstones and the Blue Finger Alliance injected refreshment, wise energy, beauty and sensuality into the campaign work. This Soil Culture collaboration brought heart-centred arts into popular and political consciousness and making new ground for policy making". Maddy Longhurst, The Blue Finger Alliance.
The Blue Finger Alliance is a network of people campaigning to safeguard a stretch of fertile, Grade 1 agricultural land adjacent to the M32 motorway extending through North Bristol to south Gloucestershire. Our Blue Soil Shrine Soil Culture residency was a response to the call of UN International Year of Soils to protect and restore living soils for resilient communities. Through art, food and conversation as transformative practices, new stories and actions have emerged to enliven the Blue Finger Alliance’s vision and dedication to an urban agriculture renaissance. See the Soil Saturdays film telling the story of what unfolded.
Art to transform ecologies Sittard, the Netherlands
In September 2017, the timely exhibition 'Ecovention Europe: Art to Transform Ecologies, 1957-2017' opened at Museum De Dominjnen, in Sittard, Netherlands. Ecovention Europe is a show dedicated to artists who are 'taking action by initiating and testing environmental resolutions.' We were commissioned by curator Sue Spaid to share a Living Soil Shrine within a retrospective installation of our collaborative work. Miche was also invited to offer Sacred Mayonnaise as part of the exhibition opening.
Seeking to source locally grown, organic harvests for our installation 'Everything is Here', we were introduced to the city's food and community gardens. As part of the opening ritual, gardeners brought to the Museum a wheelbarrow of living soil filled with a bounty of fruits, flowers, vegetables, honey and eggs.
'When Ecovention Europe artists learned of the City's plan to demolish a century's old allotment garden only a few hundred meters away, they joined forces with local gardeners both to celebrate the garden's generosity and to thwart its demise.
Kneeling upon a map of Sittard, Miche Fabre Lewin performed her Sacred Mayonnaise (2010/2017) ritual, enabling people to witness egg yolk, salt and olive oil transformed into Nederland's national condiment. The seasonal bounty of apples, walnuts and cucumbers were served atop nasturtium leaves and dipped in mayonnaise, engendering a 'mayo mass.' Sue Spaid.
Top: Wheelbarrow of offerings from Sittard's community food gardens.
Middle: Sacred Mayonnaise Ritual conducted by Miche Fabre Lewin on Ecole Mondiale’s ‘locality grid’ map at the opening of Ecovention Europe.
Bottom: Tasting of Sacred Mayonnaise with freshly harvested vegetables from Sittard's community food gardens at the opening of Ecovention Europe.
Images by 431art, Libor Bednarik and Bert Janssen
POETICS OF PRACTICE
In 2015, Miche was awarded a scholarship to undertake a full-time PhD within the Centre for Agroecology, Water and Resilience at Coventry University (CAWR). Her research focuses on how the practice of art as an aesthetic of the everyday can inspire and inform research methodologies. As part of the transdisciplinary research culture at CAWR, Miche’s dedication is to exploring the artful in science, and the scienceful in art to enhance fuller ways of knowing.
Miche’s practice-as-research doctorate is an inquiry into and through her own practice as an artist working within ritual forms and artist residencies. Poetics of Practice is the convivial aesthetic from within which both her body of art and her doctoral research emerge. As a new paradigm ethic of interconnectedness, her continuum of engagement is anchored within the dialogues and artful exchanges with her collaborative thinking partner Flora Gathorne-Hardy.
Her doctoral fieldwork has brought Miche into an enlivened relationship with people and place. Her artistic interventions have unfolded in fields, gardens, galleries, farms, educational settings and domestic homes in the UK and South Africa. These diverse research inquiries have developed into on-going relationships with the Sustainability Institute, Stellenbosch University and Spier Farm, South Africa.
HANDS IN SOIL
We evolved Hands in Soil with the Kofifi Theatre Company and the Trevor Huddleston Memorial Centre within our shared commitment to the power of art for social change. The project explored food and soil as the source of identity and health. The collaboration was strong and provided the platform for a series of co-devised public performances, including Taste the Garden at the international Food, Wine and Design Fair and Re-birth day at the NIROX foundation.
"Memory. Food as life. Life itself as food. We have never had this as a company. This is where we start creating, that moment of stillness, activating your senses, feeling your truth. Let’s see what the soil will give us. It brings us down to earth." Member of Koffifi Theatre Company.
Please watch the Hands In Soil film of Kofifi at the opening of our joint (dis)locations/(trans)formations exhibition at the Bag Factory, Johannesburg.
Strengthening alliances for farming with nature Spier Farm, Stellenbosch, South Africa
FieldTable was conceived and choreographed by Miche. In 2016, it brought together young farmers, researchers, journalists, food marketing pioneers and others to explore new agroecological paradigm for South Africa’s food and farming future. Together, we ate organic and biodynamic food grown, harvested and prepared from no more than a few miles from the table. FieldTable was supported by the Sustainability Institute and Spier Wine Farm and led to a diversity of new relationships and initiatives within the Stellenbosch area.
"For me, you are re-igniting culture, coming back to what it means to be community along the lines of land and food. Under culture you get ritual and agriculture, you discover what it means to be going back to being human." Mariota Enthoven, Spier Farm, South Africa.
PULSE took place in 2016 in partnership with the University of Stellenbosch, South Africa, the Green Road Hub, the Sustainability Institute and GUS Gallery. It was funded by ECODRY and formed the first cycle of Miche's doctoral research. The challenge was to discover ways to bring together farmers, cooks and researchers to support relationships and narratives about food sovereignty in the Western Cape area. Miche's response was to co-create a convivial fortnight of food sharing, exhibitions, skills exchange and conversations inspiring food citizenship, artisan traditions and soil guardianship.
"Memories surface Of futures Where art returns As a way of life Where all is in place Nothing brought in For its just simply there All can do it Know-how is passed on Specialists are not needed Creating becomes the norm For in that reconfiguration Peace prevails Conviviality thrives All have a place Reconnected And life unfolds". Poem by Professor Mark Swilling of the Sustainability Institute in response to the Deep Soup Ceremony offered as part of PULSE.
Reconnecting kitchen culture and agriculture Sustainability Institute, Lynedoch, South Africa
Living Cultures took place in 2016 at the Sustainability Institute, South Africa, as part of Miche's doctoral research. The shared vision was to help align the food culture of the Institute with its vision of regenerative food and farming. Miche's response was to explore the concept of ‘eating as an agricultural act’ through a cycle of hands-on skill sharing, lunches, workshops and public workshops. What emerged was a collective understanding of Food Citizenship as a commitment to creatively and actively engage with the living food cycle of growing, cooking, sharing and recycling of food waste. This concept has been embedded at the Sustainability Institute through new cooking and gardening practices, strong partnerships with local food hubs and growers, and an enlivened agroecology teaching programme.
“Your work has unlocked so much in this space. It hasn’t been overly defined, but yet it has been incredibly impactful, these cycles of engagement.” Jess Shculschenk, Director of the Sustainability Institute.
Sacred Mayonnaise is aparticipatory ritual in silence celebrating the simple art of making mayonnaise by hand. Miche has been performed it in diverse settings such as Feast on the Bridge at the Thames Festival, London, the Victoria and Albert Museum, London, and at NIROX Foundation, Cradle of Humankind, South Africa.
The ritual makes visible the inter-relations between food and agriculture, nature and culture, inviting in a consciousness of what food is and where it comes from. The artisan process engages the bodily intelligence of the senses, emotions, memory, imagination and intuition are all awakened and valued as fundamental to understanding ourselves, each other and the natural world.
"A reflective, meditative process of transformation occurred as the ingredients were mixed together and each person tasted the rich luxuriant emulsion whisked by their own hands. Sacred Mayonnaise represents the power of both socially-engaged and participatory practices and the effect it can have on audiences". Laura Godfrey-Isaacs, Founder of HomeLive Art.
Celebrating UN International Year of Soils CCANW and Create centre, Bristol
Soil Saturdays in Bristol arose from a partnership between touchstones, the Centre for Contemporary Art and the Natural World (CCANW)and Daphne Lambert of the Greencuisine Trust. This summer celebration of soil took place in Bristol and featured two exhibitions - Young Shoots curated by CCANW and Dirt Dialogues organised by Soilarts. In response to CCANW’s call to animate the exhibitions, we devised Soil Saturdays, a diverse, programme of soil-inspired events that spanned eight Saturdays in July and August. This programme emerged through three months of conversations with local organisations and individuals, as well as national groups working to protect soils. Soil Saturdays and led to a city-wideDeclaration for Soil as well as a Soil Saturdays film that we presented to the European Parliament.
"Soil is the source of all life. Soil Saturdays is a timely celebration to remind the world that we are all children of the living soil". Satish Kumar, Resurgence and Ecologist magazine and Schumacher College".
Consulting with all in the design of a new hospital space Guy's and St Thomas' Hospital, London
Futurecity commissioned a brief for a new room and garden at Guy’s and St Thomas' new Cancer Care Centre, London. Our response was to curate a nine-month research journey with doctors, patients, family members and others affected by cancer to share conversations over tea and freshly made bread and jams. Responses were woven intoa brief for what became the Living Room at the newly built hospital hospital.
"I love that we broke bread – beautiful, giant, characterful loaves locally made – and drank tea and chatted. I loved that this ritual was an intrinsic part of the event. Bringing the sacred into the everyday means more magic, more enchantment. So I take away the realisation that we are all artists and a reminder that creativity isn’t a doing but a listening and a receiving". Response from a participant at Tea and Contemplation
FIRST KNOW FOOD
First Know Food was an experiential encounter with food for 2016 ARThropocene – Art-Science-Humanities Dialogue hosted by Centre for Complex Systems in Transition (CST), Stellenbosch University. On this day a transdisciplinary group of artists, academic researchers and food growers gathered for conversation and creative encounters to re-imagine and enrich the concept of the Anthropocene through combined perspectives and collaborations. Miche, as an artist researcher, devised First Know Food as an experiential gastronomic exchange between the body of the garden and the body of the human to inspire diverse forms of knowing through artful science and scienceful art - a dining experience in and with the geography of the food gardens of the Sustainability Institute.
‘You gave us a taste of the future, allowing people to connect on a deeper level and generate new ideas.’ Dr. Rika Prieser, Centre for Complex Systems in Transition, Stellenbosch University.
The dialogues were convened by Prof. Oonsie Biggs and Dr. Rika Preiser of Stellenbosch University, under the GRAID project to integrate resilience thinking into international development practice.
'The convivial gathering opened a quiet yet fertile space for artists and scientists to slow down and experience food as connection to life: to soil and microbes, atoms and air, water and the bees, the tissues of our own organs, and of course each other — a feast for the imagination and all the senses'. See Megan's full article Arthropocene written for the CST.’ Diner and writer Megan Lindow.
Left: diners were invited to eat with their hands the freshly harvested and simply cooked colourful landscape of vegetables laid upon the three-metre tableau of a sourdough flat bread.
RE-NATURING THE CITY
Re-naturing the City is our long-term initiative making visible how food shapes our environments, re-animating the vital role food plays in reconnecting cities with their rural hinterlands. Initiatives include a three-month residency with the Bag Factory, Johannesburg, which began with Eat from the Earth pavement banquet (left) co-created in collaboration with the JHB Culinary School and TEDx Soweto. See here Miche's TEDx Talk Cooking, Culture and Conversations.
"People were offered an invitation to take time with food, to acknowledge its journey to our tables, and to revive food rituals so that even breaking bread together can remove the distance between people". The Star, Ufrieda Ho, commenting on Renaturing the City residency at the Bag Factory, Johannesburg.
"While words or images may inform, the visceral ritual of Honeycomb conversations inspires and fixes a deeper knowledge. We became aware of the collective human relationship to bees, and the universal joy of honey. And once gained, that awareness becomes part of what we carried away from the ritual, back into the world". Participant at Honeycomb Conversations.