This multi-part evening opens with a viewing of the first iteration of Maya Marshak’s work Vision Fields. Produced during her residency, this mural, comprised of painting and moving image projection, is an outcome of her research in South Africa and the UK around lost agroecological knowledges.
Following the viewing, L. Sasha Gora will deliver a lecture (18:30) titled Down the Wrong Way: Toward an Environmental History of Cuisine, considering the idea of culinary extinction through the ways recipes map how cultures eat and adapt to the worlds around them.
Responding to the themes of environmental and culinary ghosts explored in Maya and Sasha’s work, David Bates will then present Against the grain… and back again, sharing with guests a selection of wheat grains and breads. This will include sourdough bread made with a recipe devised specifically for the evening, which will include ancient, heritage and modern grains. Together, these encompass the past, present and potential future of our interaction with wheat. David is the Library and Information Services Manager at Chatham House (the Royal Institute of International Affairs) who Maya met during her research into agricultural policies as a part of her residency supported by Chatham House.
Finally, bringing the event to a close, Sasha will be offering a ‘mock mock turtle soup’, as featured in her lecture.
A ‘vision-field’ is the area which can be seen while the eye is focused on a fixed point. Maya’s work looks at how ideas of control and standardisation rooted in post-enlightenment thinking and enacted through imperial and green revolution agriculture have impacted agroecological knowledge, practice and ecologies – and how they continue to shape agricultural visions in the face of climate change.
With a previous focus on maize in South Africa, and here in the UK, through a lens on wheat and an interest in patterns, Maya has been tracing the ideas underpinning industrial agriculture and the social-ecological worlds that these ideas have created and displaced.
During her residency at Delfina supported by Chatham House, Maya has been exploring archives, visiting farms and scientific research spaces, and talking to people with knowledge about wheat farming. During this process she has been ‘collecting ghosts’ from wheat’s ancient and vast journey, as it has crossed continents and climatic zones and shape-shifted in relation to ideas, politics, science, climates and social-ecological entanglements. These ghosts of things lost and things created take the form of nutrients, roots, insects, recipes, chemicals, ideas.
As part of this collaborative evening, Maya will present her first iteration of Vision Fields, taking the form of a mural-sized agricultural monoscape painting and an evolving animation. MayaShe invites participants to engage with the work and offer ghosts that may be added to the story.
Down the Wrong Way: Toward an Environmental History of Cuisine
L. Sasha Gora
How do human appetites shape plants and animals, land and water, the world’s present and its future?
Because eating is one of the most direct ways that people interact with environments, by literally digesting them, fashions in food not only map changes in taste but also social, environmental, and technological transformations.
In Down the Wrong Way: Toward an Environmental History of Cuisine, cultural historian L. Sasha Gora shares her research about culinary reactions to climate change. Reflecting on how humans know, endanger, and perhaps even conserve flora, fauna, and their habitats through culinary practices, her work seeks to merge food studies and the environmental humanities.
Zooming in on the history of turtle soup, Down the Wrong Way considers culinary extinction – which is to say the ghosts of appetite’s past –, how recipes map how cultures eat and adapt to the worlds around them, and the entanglements between people and plants, cuisine and climate.
Against the grain… and back again
David’s presentation of a selection of wheat grains and breads reflects the way that, until the 19th Century, farmers actively cultivated diverse fields of wheat – known as landraces. Since then, and especially during the Green Revolution, the focus has been on developing monocultures – vast crops which are genetically identical. However, in recent years, there has been push-back against this with a number of small farmers reintroducing landraces and deliberately encouraging genetically diverse crops. The NIAB (National Institute of Agricultural Botany) is also conducting research which involves going back to ancient grains from which modern wheat emerged. The idea is to restore genetic diversity in order to create resilience and reliability in the face of climate change and emerging disease threats.
The Library and Information Services Manager at Chatham House, David is passionate about baking and enjoys working with textures and flavours but also baking in resistance to industrial bread and its impacts on human and environmental wellbeing.