Food at the End of the World, Part I

Food at the End of the World, Part I

By Michelle Lai, Part of TANAH (SG)

Food at the End of the World is a collaboration project between Bakudapan Food Study Group withTANAH, to discuss about politics of food in Indonesia. This project started in January 2018, with support from soft/WALL/studs and Cemeti Institute for Art and Society.

Ideas

We met our friends at food study group Bakudapan last year in Yogyakarta, and having found similarities in our research interests and trajectories, sought out a collaboration in the coming year, towards mapping out the food system in the local context. This led to us at TANAH going over in January, 2018, the time we spent in Yogyakarta culminating in a food salon session, Food at the End of the World, held 20 January, 2018 at Lifepatch headquarters.

The term “salon” was intended as a platform to meet parties and discuss ideas, thoughts, and insecurities. The salon sessions also has its roots in post — colonial Indonesian society, lecture — discussions in the 50s, by the Konfrontasi Study Club, formatted by Sutan Takdir Alisjahbana on the European model.

Process

The “Food Salon Session” was planned to be held two times; the first one focused on the possibilities of theory, and non-capitalism in relation to food issues in the capitalist system. In the second session we intended to put in place the new considerations provoked by the previous meeting. In sum, the discussion of food, art, and ecology was to be done through Theory and Praxis during the Food Salon sessions. Participants were asked to bring a short piece of literature (an excerpt from a book, stories, poems, articles) or an object (can be food), which can act as tools to trigger our discussion on food and its relation to social and political dimensions — ranging from issues of production to consumption.

Taking a leaf from Anna Tsing’s book (The Mushroom at The End of The World: On The Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins), we sought to explore issues around capitalism and exploitation in food, art, and ecology. What can we do and how may the boundaries of the non-capitalist and the capitalist world intertwine?

Experience

The salon itself saw plenty of robust discussions, and sharings by the participants. Elia and Tyas from Bakudapan facilitated the session, with inputs from the other members of Bakudapan and TANAH. In a span of 4 hours, we looked at the histories of wheat imports in Indonesia, how entrance of the Green Revolution marked a turning point in agricultural processes in the local context. Members from the Ekoliterasi group expounded on issues facing farmers today, relating to GMOs, the disappearance of indigenous crops and heirloom rice varietals, and the shrinking of land allotments today. There were also mentions and general observations relating to post — ’65 marking a turning point in the distribution of agricultural resources, shifting the ways in which Indonesians related to food.

The group went through a session together with Bu Ita, to unpack our salon discussions, looking at policies, legislations, drivers, and actors relating to the following areas of food, labour, agriculture and land. Following which, we did a mind – mapping session looking at power dynamics amongst actors in the food system, across the global — regional — national strata.

Thoughts

As a group, we wrapped up this initial phase with a preliminary look at the relations between international actors within the food system, in relation to Indonesia. Casting our sights further, we are working towards refining this map, before releasing an open — source version online for the public to share and add their inputs. Herein, maps are tools for working through narratives and interconnecting issues within the food system, and a collaborative means to which piecemeal solutions can be built upon. The issues within the Indonesian context are complex and intertwined — the group hopes plan their steps for the next phase of mapping and clarifying issues in the system, in the year ahead. Looking forward!

Writeup for Food and the end of the World

Join us for a discussion of food, art, and ecology through Theory and Praxis during the Food Salon sessions. Bring a short piece of literature (an excerpt from a book, stories, poems, articles) or an object (can be food), which can act as tools to trigger our discussion on food and its relation to social and political dimensions — ranging from issues of production to consumption.

Taking a leaf from Anna Tsing’s book (The Mushroom at The End of The World: On The Possibility of Life in Capitalist Ruins), we try to sense and explore issues around capitalism and exploitation in food, art, and ecology. What can we do and how may the boundaries of the non-capitalist and the capitalist world intertwine?

We are using the term “salon” as a platform to meet and discuss ideas, thoughts, and insecurities (related to food issues). “Food Salon Session” will be held two times; the first one will focus on the possibilities of theory, and non-capitalism in relation to food issues in the capitalist system. In the second session we will put to practice new considerations provoked by the previous meeting.

 

About TANAH

TANAH stands for soil, earth or land in Malay. We are an inter-disciplinary collective engaged in the spaces around us. Through nature- and food-themed interventions, research and dialogue, we explore symbiotic relationships and forms of everyday participation.