Large-scale agriculture, feasting on exhausted land, plants and animal life, makes it increasingly difficult to choose what to drop into our shopping baskets. "What is it that we should be eating?" is a crucial daily decision, affecting some of the biggest issues of today; from climate change, to workers’ or animal rights and public health. At the front line of these cultural narratives, artists find themselves in a vortex of web 2.0 social and political struggle. An evening on image-making in a time of food ignorance and ecological imbalance. With: Jordi Ruiz Cirera, Sheng-Wen Lo, Alena Alexandrova, Alireza Abbasy and Saba Askary (moderator).
New forms of ‘food consciousness’ are frequently cropping up in cities like Amsterdam, where vegan foods are high in demand, twenty different alternatives to milk are available, and Instagram floods our smartphones with conscious hashtags. But what does this mean in a global food context? As neoliberal ideology and food consciousness are changing consumer behaviour, how can image-making grasp and push this momentum to be more complex than simply the question of ‘what food we should eat’? Which direction could artistic practice take, when the marginal starts to become mainstream? Can artistic practice begin to weave and entangle ecological balance for all species?
Planting the way in the series ‘The United Soya Republic’ Jordi Ruiz Cirera points an anthropological lens at the landscape and the socio-economic fabric, brought about by intensive farming and exportation of the soya crop in Argentina and Paraguay; regions at the epicentre of the global food economy. Artist Sheng-Wen Lo enters the realm of moving-image and gamification through the research projects ‘TUNA’ and ‘MELK’. Through in-depth research processes that are both scientific and artistic, Lo finds playful ways of digital storytelling that questions the generic conventions of the human-animal relation and how this is often taken for granted.
With respect to humankind’s complex entanglement with the world, ‘For your convenience’ asks how practices and processes of creation can break apathy and once again reintegrate humans into the planet’s natural ecosystem. During this discussion, Ruiz Cirera and Lo will share with the audience their creative processes, whilst Alireza Abassy and Alena Alexandrova give an attentive ear to respond and ask questions about image making as a critical research tool. Art historian and concerned foodie Saba Askary will moderate the panel. Together they will unpack the complexities and methodologies, the trials and tribulations that visual artists have within present geography and time.
Sheng-Wen Lo works in various mediums – from moving image and sound to video games – and is interested to spark debates about the contemporary human-animal relationships. He seeks to strengthen the mutual communication and understanding between the contemporary European and Taiwanese photography scenes. Lo received his MA in Photography from AKV|St.Joost in the Netherlands, and MSc in Computer Science from the Computer Music Lab at National Taiwan University. Currently he is an artist in residence at the Rijksakademie.
Jordi Ruiz Cirera is an independent documentary photographer and filmmaker from Barcelona, based in Mexico. His long-term projects focus on the effects of globalisation in small communities. He holds a BA degree in design and an MA in Photojournalism and Documentary Photography from University of the Arts: London College of Communication. His work has appeared in international publications including The New York Times, Le Monde M, and National Geographic. In 2014, Jordi published his first monograph, Los Menonos.
Alireza Abbasy is the founder of Sarmad Magazine, an independent platform dedicated to practices and studies related to images and the various forms of image-making and their genealogical, technical, artistic and socio-political importance and influence. Sarmad’s operations include online and print publishing, research, public events, and book making.
Sarmad has initiated Un-Making Image in 2017; a long-term project investigating the interrelations of images and power in various way, supported by Gemeente Rotterdam, Stichting Stad in de Maak and TENT Rotterdam.
Alena Alexandrova is a cultural theorist and an independent curator based in Amsterdam. She holds a PhD from the University of Amsterdam. Alexandrova is the author of Breaking Resemblance: The Role of Religious Motifs in Contemporary Art (Fordham University Press, 2017) and is the co-editor of a volume on the work of Jean-Luc Nancy. She has published internationally in the fields of aesthetics, performance and visual studies. In addition to lecturing at the Fine Arts and Photography departments of the Gerrit Rietveld Academy, Alexandrova is currently writing a book: Anarchic Infrastructures (working title).
Saba Askary is a multidisciplinary art historian working through critical writing, curation and collaborative art making. Askary focuses her practice between societies’ grasp of its ancient identity in contrast with the vision of their futuristic self – all to distil a nuanced understanding of the present. Originally Iranian, Askary was raised in the United Arab Emirates, graduating with a BFA from OCAD University (Toronto, Canada) and later an MLitt in History of Art (University of Glasgow & Christie’s Education, London). She is currently settled in Amsterdam where she has co-founded multiple art-collectives and manages the continued development of Unseen’s newly launched digital arm.
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