Temporary Spaces, Edible Places: London (2014) began with the picnic event, Temporality in Architecture, Food and Communities as part of the Delfina Foundation’s Public Domain program in London, where I was in residence April-June 2014. I organised this picnic inside an inflatable dome as a way to host a dialogue with others interested in exploring the political intersections of food and space.
While eating ‘traditional’ English food, in the most classic sense, we discussed its relevant histories in relation to space and architecture. For example; cucumber sandwiches were eaten as a way to talk about class, privilege and access to certain spaces, as they were traditionally eaten by the English aristocracy as a way to assert class privilege; because they have almost no protein or sustenance, it was a statement that they could afford to eat foods without nutritional value. Most of the food we ate had particular histories and associations for many of the people involved.
The dishes were marked with flags indicating key words that both related to the dish and were used as an avenue to discuss space and/or architecture. As I mapped the conversation throughout the picnic directly onto the flooring, I put myself in the role of a performer, drawing and weaving in between people and plates. At the end of the picnic, key words and the connections we drew between them were left as a record of the event. A map is left as a trace of the dialogue during the picnic.
The Delfina Foundation is located in Victoria in central London, an area that is predominantly a commercial centre and therefore regulated, heavily surveilled and vastly deserted at night. Acknowledging my temporary connection to the area, I decided to form a temporary community inside a temporary inflatable structure. This community was based more on an interest in ideas relating to food and space than on specific geographic locale. The ‘traditional’ English food was a way to begin conversations regarding themes such as place, utilising the portable format of a picnic to correspond with and propel these ideas.
This project is a collaboration between myself and the other picnickers, whose conversation throughout the meal formed the map. It is also a collaboration with the people at the Delfina Foundation, who prepared for the picnic and, as we hustled around the kitchen, shared perceptions of and personal stories about the food we were making.
This project is the beginning of a larger body of work, Temporary Spaces, Edible Places using food as a means to discuss place and have since been hosted in the Isle of Skye, Vancouver and New York and features accompanying publications.
Special thanks to Delfina Foundation, Australia Council for the Arts, National Association for the Visual Arts and all the cooks and picnickers.