The Ties That Bind, Beirut, Lebanon, 2017

In a panel discussion titled ‘The Ties That Bind’, Forager Collective deliberated on the idea of the Day After – the aftermath of an event, a revolution, a referendum, even a dinner party, when the repercussions of the night before needs to be addressed and accounted for.

We examined the politics of leftover food which has, by turns, been coveted, celebrated, derided, discarded and frowned upon throughout histories in the course of establishing nations and cultural identities.

The talk was organised as part of Sharjah Biennial 13: Tamawuj off-site project Upon a Shifting Platecurated by Christine Tohme, and was held at Ashkal Alwan, Beirut, Lebanon in October, 2017.

 

The Ties That Bind, Beirut, Lebanon, 2017

Forest Object, Oslo, Norway, 2017

In the objectification of Sambrani or benzoin, a product of the forests, the work evaluates the sudden revocation of a tribe’s ability to articulate their identities derived from geography, from professions and access to spiritual reserves. In trying out new identities, the collective tribe and the individual tribal both face the trauma from and burden of originality, with often catastrophic consequences.

Sambrani, a product as ephemeral as modern identities and symbolic of solastalgia, has undergone a change in its object freedom from a commonly collected produce to now being illegal and harvested only from farmed styrax trees.

Through the Forest Object, we contemplate the unstable nature of the hyper-local migrant, the frequent oscillation between memories, identities and geographies – both physical and of the mind.

Forest Object was exhibited in the group show All of the Above, None of the Above, curated by Gitanjali Dang at Melahuset, Oslo, Norway between October and November 2017.

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Jute, benzoin
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2017

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Forest Object, Oslo, Norway, 2017

Work in Commons, Nottingham, United Kingdom, 2017

At the end of a summer residency at Primary, Nottingham, Forager Collective cooked a meal that derived ingredients from the un-translatable in food that were either inspired by, or were representative of the practices and rituals of Commons in India.

The conceptual meal was preceded by a reading performance of a text work, ‘There Are No Words’ developed in the past week. The performance was in collaboration with theatre practitioner Sooree Pillay. The text referenced language – the “signature” of culture – and its complete inadequacy in recent times to be able to relate the self and the community to the natural world, and examined scenarios of what occurs when appropriate language is wholly absent.

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Whose inadequacy is the lack of appropriate vocabulary?

This meal is reminiscent of a folklorish people. Call it more rustic than the sophistication of social order and structure, if you will. Each dish has an ingredient that I have no way of translating. If it came to the technicalities, there are of course words, but I could not tell you what they actually “mean.”

There are experiences of landscape that will always resist articulation. In this culinary geography, in the un-translatable, maybe we could invent a language without various lines.

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Work in Commons, Nottingham, United Kingdom, 2017

#, NEW DELHI, INDIA, 2017

# was a text work shown in the group show G/rove, curated by Bhavna Kakar and Adwait Singh at Latitude 28, New Delhi, in February 2017

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If land is a contentious, conflicted, inherently political geographical entity, then versus that, landscape is a romanticized, ‘beautiful’ feature that assumes a certain aesthetic appeal, even when such aesthetics are informed by the burdens of history and its consequences. Landscapes evoke the romantic, in the way they are described, in the way people ‘feel’ in the presence of dramatic landforms and in remembered nostalgia where their ‘beauty’ is necessarily exaggerated. Land, on the other hand, is more an agent of economy, status and ownership (or lack thereof), where its beauteous sheen become less important than cold practical concerns.

The tensions that arise from the conflicts, apprehensions and politics between land and landscape, and the manners in which the landscape is pressurized by various agencies to retain its ‘beauty’ encapsulates our thought process here.

The work takes the form of text which, while sounding almost excessively poetic and romantic, alludes to the political and presents an idea that almost juxtaposes the romantic notions referred to in the sentence. These texts are printed as vinyl stickers and stuck on the gallery wall, running close to the ceiling and not at eye level. This positioning is important because when the viewers have to raise their heads to read the text, the words again become distant, unattainable – almost like relating to or connecting with land for most people.

The hashtagged words, seemingly innocuous, point out to the uninhibited use of this internet device by some people, in the hope of bumping up the relevance and popularity of a certain word. While hashtags can be a powerful tool in spreading awareness, the uncontrolled use of it serves no purpose. By hashtagging common nouns, we mull over what is really relevant in the present digital environment. The words which are hashtagged in the text follow the poetic phrases, hinting at word-play and the many derivations and interpretations of the word when read keeping in mind the various tensions that a landscape is subjected to.

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#, NEW DELHI, INDIA, 2017

The Myth of the Day and the Day After: London, UK, 2016

Towards the end of the Politics of Food residency at Delfina Foundation, a conceptual lunch menu was developed during the Markets and Movements Weekend.

This conceptual meal explored the myths and fantasies of consumer choice within neoliberal economies. While developing Manufacturing Purana, a study into the myths that are used to sell ideas and products in the market, we looked into the importance of the ‘day after’. The day after a revolution, a referendum, or even a dinner party becomes important, which is when the repercussions of the night before need to be addressed.

The day after is the aftermath of the decision, not always positive but riddled with new problems – a dystopia where the likelihood is that promises will not be lived up to. The day after a choice has been made, you wake up to a world more closed – particularly true in today’s increasingly nationalistic and inward-looking political landscape.

For this meal people were confronted with this precise ‘dystopia’: instead of the limitless array of choice provided by the free market they were presented with a reversion to finite options. The contents of menu hidden and referred to by cryptic yet significant numbers.

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The Myth of the Day and the Day After: London, UK, 2016

Unbounded Mono-Tonic by Abhishek Hazra: London, UK, 2016

Unbounded Mono-Tonic invites you into the world of think tanks and strategy summits, an imaginary session called to work through the differences and tensions of liberalisation.

As part of The Politics of Food programme of events, Forager Collective invited Bengaluru based artist Abhishek Hazra to develop a new performance as part of their project Manufacturing Purana. Working across multiple media, Abhishek’s artistic practice is marked by a close yet idiosyncratic engagement with the affective dimension of scientific research. Through enactments and spoken word narrations, his new piece will stage a speculative exploration of the pre-history of economic liberalisation in India.

In foregrounding historical aspects of the post-independence nation state, Abhishek and Forager Collective interrogate the historical amnesia that too often accompanies the triumphal narrative of India’s emerging economic ‘superpowerhood’.

This performance forms part of the Forager Collective’s residency project Manufacturing Purana, which explores the years immediately before and after 1990, when the open market policy was introduced in India. The wider project interrogates how the appeal of myths or a stories behind food products, fads and movements continue to be employed by markets to sell products.

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Unbounded Mono-Tonic by Abhishek Hazra: London, UK, 2016