Some months ago I applied for and was accepted into the show: Visions in the Nunnery at Nunnery gallery, the location run by Bow Arts, with whom I have my studio.
I spent the week before the install remaking the pyQT interface to be friendly to the gallery staff when turning the piece on and troubleshhoting minor issues. This definitely proved helpful, for myself also, and with the QA testing of people using the system, I’ll be able to further improve and refine it in future.
For the most part the install went well, and the images that have come out of the first week have been really pleasing and effective.
The rest of this post comprises my dissertation proposal:
Captive Planet: A speculation
Taking at its core the conundrum of food production, the essay will seek to investigate a speculative future where humanity has detached itself from much of the global landscape to persist solely within dense urban areas, to facilitate global rewilding. I will explore the technological, political, economic and social challenges involved, focusing arguments back to the UK acknowledging its particular circumstances and the situated cultural position from which I am writing.
I wish to research the long-term viability of food production for a growing population, in a warming, harsher climate. How food production can be brought into the cities where the global population is trending to be, and what is the current and future possible political relationships with food given a major shift in the methods and locality of its production.
I want to explore how the industrialised food system may be adapted into urban settlements, and how this might affect or change our social, economic, political, and cultural relationships with food and the environment. I would like to do this partially through an investigation into the now, but also a look at how speculative fiction engages with urban density while addressing environmental issues and resource-scarcity.
Food, along with water, air, and shelter is one of the basic requirements to function as a human being. It is also an element that directly connects us to the environment, and yet is also primarily presented, through supermarkets and pre-cooked meals, as if it is separate from the environment. Half the world’s habitable land is currently used for agriculture as opposed to 1% being used as urban or built-up land. Farming has always been one of the most technologically sophisticated industries and machine-learning driven imaging technologies, self-willed vehicles, and genetic engineering or fertiliser optimisation will all make massive changes to the current practices we use. My question is whether these technologies can be used to bring large-scale farming back into the cities, and whether such a major change be exploited to redress issues of inequality and food security such as those facing Britain?
Food has also always held a cultural value, from its production to its preparation, its service, and sharing. The industrialised food system has prioritised the efficiency of production over its cultural and local value, often destroying communities in the process. New cultures have certainly arisen, but especially in urban environments, are more focussed on preparation and serving food than on its production. Our growing dislocation from the source of our meals has led to numerous climate and cultural atrocities being enacted in our names, that we would not stomach if given greater collective control (Rainforest clearing for cattle grazing in the Amazon, Rainforest clearing in Borneo for Palm Oil production, Water privatisation or overuse).
Control and input into the sources and varieties of food available to us is an extra dimension to the issue. With supermarkets posting record profits as customers and farmers go through a cost-of-living crisis it is hard not to see that the feedback loop between consumer and producer has been strangled by the distributor. Additionally, the land is growing ever poorer with monoculture farming sucking out biodiversity and leaving deserts of less fertile land requiring more artificial stimulants in fertilisers, and providing perfect conditions for pests as the ecologies that might support their predators disappear, leading to higher uses of more potent pesticides, that then leach into groundwater and waterways, further damaging ecologies over a larger area. Much of these practices are also maintained with the use of state-backed subsidies won by powerful lobbies often representing land-owners rather than specifically the farmers working the land. A question to be had is whether this public money is being put into the right places and whether an urban agriculture would be able to compete with or without these same subsidies.
I would like to engage with artworks and projects that either look at or are tangential to the issues of urbanisation and food production. I intend to use the writing of J.G. Ballard as a primary point from which to explore the psychogeography of increasing urbanisation. Through “High Rise, and the short story “The Concentration City”, I want to explore how Ballard’s characters engage in their densely urbanised and self-sufficient environments, and the types of challenges such ecologies present psychologically. I would like to look at The Line in Neom, where an unorthodox, planned city for 9 million residents is being constructed to be a testbed for several future-urban-technologies and consider it from a Ballardian point of view. “The Drowned World” also holds interest through its depiction of a rapidly rewilding city, becoming overrun by a heating planet and creatures more suited to the developing environments. This I would like to compare with the rewilding suggested within George Monbiot’s “Feral” and connect a stream between Ballard’s reversing-time motif that accompanies the rewilding city and Monbiot’s discussions of the human impact on the managed British countryside.
To discuss topics of food and its provenance, I again will look to Monbiot with “Regenesis”, but also to the collective works of lumbung within “Lumbung Stories” and “Majalah Lumbung” with regards to investigating alternate forms of organisation around production for a collective good. Here I will revisit the work of Guy Standing, Gerard Winstanley, and David Bollier and their interpretations and formulations of the commons. To this I would like to expand my reading to involve the work Elinor Ostrum, whose extensive research into commons, power structures and commons-scaling will be helpful. With this form of lens I can then investigate Cooking Sections and artworks such as “Salmon: A Red Herring”, “Becoming CLIMAVORE” and “To Those Who Nourish”, whereby the origins and Naturalness of our food is taken into question.
Connection to Practice
The main run-through of my practice has been to create systems designed to fail, and I see the way we currently feed ourselves as a massive example of an unsustainable system. This lack of sustainability is more than purely ecological, there is a cultural diversity that is reduced with the encroachment of farmland and the reduction in diversity of foodstuffs across the globe grown because of agglomerations of businesses seeking economies of scale to improve productivity and profits. It is socially unsustainable as the price of food is going up, and as the effects of climate change are felt more and more, this is a trend that is only likely to continue. Researching this topic provides views of systems of interrelations that can be abstracted and refactored into my work. Further to this, I have before tried to display a vertical garden concept and would like to develop small experiments into speculative designs for future urbanised food cultivation, and in time would like to explore the creation of mythos and culture around these further.
The context of this research is the position the UK finds itself in with being one of the worlds largest economies and yet having 13.8% of households (7.3 million adults) living in food insecure conditions. As previously outlined, food is a multi-faceted issue broaching areas of social, cultural, economic, and political importance as well as being a driving factor in climate change and having a yet larger effect on biodiversity. And everyone needs to eat.
The global population is both growing and becoming more urbanised, Britain itself is already 84% urbanised . This trend is set to continue with the UN predicting 68% of the world’s population living within urban settlements by the year 2050 and predicting that by 2030 there will be 43 megacities with a population of over 10 million people. Currently 1 in 8 people today live in one of the 33 megacities. This growing density of human living represents an enormous shift in the average human ecology and the questions associated with life in a megacity are more real than ever.
Initial Broad Research: November-December 22
Read major sources to build general argument
- Feral – Read
- Lumbung Stories
- Majalah Lumbung
- High Rise
- Concentration City
- Ballard related articles
- Neom related articles
Map out order of essay: 08/01/23
Flesh out supplementary research: 31/01/23
Write first draft ~4000 words: 17/02/23
Draft Submission: 17/02/23
Review draft feedback: 10/03/23
Develop points from feedback: 17/03/23
Additional arguments outlined: 01/04/23
Second Draft: 14/04/23
Review after proof-reading: 21/04/23
Final Draft and proof read: 28/04/23
Final changes and submission: 02/05/23
|· Al-Saidi, Mohammad, and Esmat Zaidan. “Gulf Futuristic Cities beyond the Headlines: Understanding the Planned Cities Megatrend.” Energy Reports 6 (2020): 114-21.|
|· Arieff, Allison. “The One-dimensional City.” New Statesman (1996) 150, no. 5603 (2021): 18.|
|· Batt, H. William. “Saving the Commons in an Age of Plunder.” The American Journal of Economics and Sociology 75, no. 2 (2016): 346-71.|
|· Battersby, Jane, and Vanessa Watson. “The Planned ‘city-region’ in the New Urban Agenda: An Appropriate Framing for Urban Food Security?” Town Planning Review 90, no. 5 (2019): 497-518.|
|· Batty, Michael. “The Linear City: Illustrating the Logic of Spatial Equilibrium.” Computational Urban Science 2, no. 1 (2022): 1-17.|
|· Bick, Ian Avery, Ronita Bardhan, and Terry Beaubois. “Applying Fuzzy Logic to Open Data for Sustainable Development Decision-making: A Case Study of the Planned City Amaravati.” Natural Hazards (Dordrecht) 91, no. 3 (2018): 1317-339.|
|· BROWN. 2022. Lumbung Stories.|
|· Buck, Holly Jean. After Geoengineering : Climate Tragedy, Repair, and Restoration. London: Verso, 2019.|
|· Cockrall-King, Jennifer. Food and the City : Urban Agriculture and the New Food Revolution. Amherst, N.Y.: Prometheus Books, 2012.|
|· Fisher, Mark. Capitalist Realism Is There No Alternative? Winchester, UK: Zero Books, 2009.|
|· G Standing, Guy. Plunder of the Commons : A Manifesto for Sharing Public Wealth. Pelican Books ; 33. London]: Pelican, 2019.|
|· Garthwaite, Kayleigh. Hunger Pains Life inside Foodbank Britain. Bristol: Policy Press, 2016.|
|· Haysom, Gareth. “Food and the City: Urban Scale Food System Governance.” Urban Forum (Johannesburg) 26, no. 3 (2015): 263-81.|
|· Kahal, Ali Y. “Geological Assessment of the Neom Mega-project Area, Northwestern Saudi Arabia: An Integrated Approach.” Arabian Journal of Geosciences 13, no. 10 (2020): Arabian Journal of Geosciences, 2020, Vol.13 (10).|
|· Kleeman, Jenny. 2020. Sex Robots and Vegan Meat. Simon and Schuster.|
|· MacRae, Graeme, and Thomas Reuter. “Lumbung Nation.” Indonesia and the Malay World 48, no. 142 (2020): 338-58.|
|· Monbiot, George. Feral : Searching for Enchantment on the Frontiers of Rewilding. London: Allen Lane, 2013.|
|· Monbiot, George. Regenesis : Feeding the World without Devouring the Planet. London] UK: Allen Lane, 2022.|
|· ROBOTIC LANDSCAPES : Designing the Unfinished. 2021. S.L.: Park Books.|
|· Ruangrupa. 2022. Documenta Fifteen Majalah Lumbung Ein Magazin Über Ernten Und Teilen. Berlin: Hatje Cantz Verlag.|
|· Sellars, Simon. “Stereoscopic Urbanism: JG Ballard and the Built Environment.” Architectural Design 79, no. 5 (2009): 82-87.|
|· Viljoen, André, Katrin Bohn, and J. Howe. Continuous Productive Urban Landscapes : Designing Urban Agriculture for Sustainable Cities. Oxford: Architectural, 2005.|
|· Winstanley, Gerrard, Tony Benn, Andrew Hopton, and Tom Hazeldine. Tony Benn Presents : A Common Treasury. London: Verso, 2011.|
Artworks / Artists
|· Ballard, J. G. The Drowned World. London: Fourth Estate, 2012.|
|· Ballard, J. G. High-rise. Modern Classic. London: Harper Perennial, 2006.|
|· Ballard J.G. – Short Stories (Various)|
|· Cooking Sections (http://www.cooking-sections.com/)|
|· Decompose (https://decompose.institute/INTRO)|
|· Gumbs, Alexis Pauline. M Archive : After the End of the World. Durham: Duke University Press, 2018.|
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