A new exhibition at Tashkeel aims to examine the implications of our eating choices, reflecting on the social, ethical, political and artistic aspects of food.
Titled Philosophy of Food, the exhibition is running until April 19 and brings together works by 38 artists living in the UAE. The 54 pieces encompass a wide range of mediums and come as a response to an open call by Tashkeel.
The exhibition takes into account the nature of food consumption in the UAE, “a place that currently imports 80 per cent of its food”, asking whether we can become a self-sufficient society “able to nourish ourselves while preserving the natural resources around us and reducing waste”.
“Will such a major shift restrict the way we live or give us greater autonomy, enabling us to realise a vision where the true agricultural and culinary potential of this country is fulfilled?” the theme of the exhibition examines.
The artworks include Graciela Noemi Ghiradosi’s Wake Up. Comprised of used coffee capsules encased in resin, the work is a call to reduce the amount of plastic we discard on a daily basis.
Like much of the plastic produced, coffee capsules are intended to be used only once, Ghiradosi says. “The idea was to recycle or upcycle them in an artwork,” she says.
Ghiradosi says that she doesn’t usually work with resin and produced Wake Up with the help of specialist team Nidanin Woodwork.
“The message is what the title of the artwork literally says. Let’s wake up and try to do something,” she says. “I love drinking coffee in the morning but let’s find a way to do it without damaging the planet more, without producing more plastic.”
Yosra Emamizadeh’s coloured pencil artworks Avocados and Clementine, on the other hand, appreciate the aesthetics of the two fruits, “their texture and vibrancy”, while also considering their perishable nature.
The works, she says, are a metaphor for ephemerality, “how deteriorating is inevitable for everyone, including us on a cellular level".
“I try not to focus much on the actual decay process, but understand the emotions we have in relation to time,” she says. “The anxiety that comes with it, the longing that comes with it.”
“With the philosophy of food theme, the avocado is an interesting example,” she says. “Because they’re actually quite expensive and if you miss that time frame, it can go bad.”
A bio-art installation titled (mush) Room by Lena Obaid and Abdullah Al Saadi is a two-part work that highlights mushrooms as a sustainable food source, as well as a possible solution to the waste crisis.
The installation features a video showing mushrooms growing out of a sterile box. Samples of the work are also on display, showing mycelium forming in mason jars before eventually producing shiitake and shimeji mushrooms when the conditions are right.
“They're gonna grow throughout the period of the exhibition,” Obaid says. “Food isn't just something that we eat, it's something that's alive and that changes over time.
“When we started thinking about food, sustainability and the philosophy of food, we really tried to think about how can we help regenerative processes. How we can recycle waste back into making something that’s nourishing."
While pondering questions of sustainability regarding food production, the artists arrived at fungi as a potential solution as the organisms can grow out of waste and dead organic matter.
“Coffee as well,” Al Saadi says. “You can use coffee waste as a nutrition for mushrooms to grow and we know we love our coffee in the region, so there’s a lot of it.”
The two artists held a workshop on March 13 on how to grow a mushroom farm at home, discussing the organism's role in the sustainable food cycle.
Alexandra Ghose’s artwork Local is an installation that features some 80 glass Al Ain milk bottles filled with green-coloured liquid.
“I have a 15 year-old son,” she says. “He drinks a lot of milk. We were using a lot of milk from plastic bottles. I felt really bad wasting so much plastic, and then I discovered Al Ain glass bottle milks.”
Before she knew it, Ghose had amassed a large collection of glass bottles. She didn’t want to throw them away as she found them to be beautiful and nostalgic.
“They also have a story to them,” she says. “They come from Al Ain Farms, which was founded 40 years ago by Sheikh Zayed [Founding Father of the UAE]. For me, it’s important to buy a local product. I don’t want my milk to be flown in. I want it to be produced right here in the UAE. Whenever I shop, I try to get things from the land.”
Feast II by Ghalia Kalaji is part of a series of silkscreens that hint at the communal and familial side of food. “I tried to show what food means to me,” Kalaji says. “I immediately think of family and friends around a table, staying for hours laughing and talking. It’s the power of food to bring people together.”
Shrutika Gosavi’s Leftovers, meanwhile, pays homage to rice and its symbolism as “the global unifier” while reflecting upon the amount of food wasted on a daily basis.
There are 40 works in the series, Gosavi says, three of which are on display at the exhibition.
“The theme of the work was inspired by a video, which I watched many years back,” she says. “It showed people in one country collecting food from the garbage, meats, grains, bread, and washing it. They were then eating it themselves or selling to others. It was heartbreaking.”
Drawn in black ink over translucent paper, almost all of the works in Gosavi’s Leftovers series show hands and feet twisted in uncomfortable forms. The hands and feet, Gosavi says, are as idiosyncratic as a person’s face.
“I always place them in my works,” she says. “I find the hands to be the most attractive thing in a person. It shows human touch, human emotion. I don’t show faces in my paintings. It’s very rare.”
Alongside the exhibition, Tashkeel is hosting a range of workshops, talks and guided tours around the theme Philosophy of Food. Upcoming events include an examination on sustainable package design on March 30 with industrial designer Hamza Omari, as well as a talk by interdisciplinary designer Charlotte McCurdy on April 12, looking at the issue of climate change through the lens of a designer.
Philosophy of Food runs until April 19 at Tashkeel. More information is available at tashkeel.org