From corn dollies to illicit foraging, Acts of Gathering, recently opened at the Eden Project, explores connection to land, food and tradition.
Acts of Gathering showcases diverse pieces from internationally renowned artists including Jonathan Baldock, Serge Attukwei Clottey, Jumana Manna, Maria Nepomuceno, Uriel Orlow, Nina Royle & Lucy Stein. The exhibition invites visitors to delve into the ceremonies and practices surrounding food production, harvesting and sharing, across different cultures.
Performances, songs, storytelling and symbolic objects connect different cultures to the land. Corn dollies, traditional weaving, repurposed plastic containers and painted murals vividly depict these relationships.
The exhibition serves as a catalyst for thought-provoking discussions on the politics surrounding these practices and why some are supported while others are marginalised and impacted by globalisation and industrial farming.
Acts of Gathering strives to bridge the gap between visitors and these relationships with food and encourages them to consider their own connection to the food they consume and its origins.
A series of workshops and interactivities will allow visitors to engage deeper with each piece beyond observation.
Corn dolly making workshops throughout the summer will accompany Kent-born artist Jonathan Baldock’s Corn Dolly I, II, III & V (2012), a series of masks inspired by corn dollies, which are traditionally made form the last sheaf of corn cut at harvest. The spirit of the corn is thought to inhabit the dolly once the field has been harvested, with different shapes historically associated with varying counties across the UK.
Ghanaian artist, Serge Attukwei Clottey, uses found materials from his hometown of Accra to explore narratives encompassing trade, food and migration. His striking Noko Y3 Dzen (Something in the world) (2019–20) recycles yellow oil containers — called Kufuor gallons — that are cut up and stitched together on a large scale, draped and hanging within the gallery space.
Better Days are Coming (2016 – 2021) is an audio piece by Clottey that takes its title from the harvest festival ‘Homowo’ – a remembrance of famine that once befell pre-colonial Ghana and is once again impacting farmers as a consequence of climate change.
Brazilian artist Maria Nepomuceno’s Você me alimenta (You feed me) (2022) uses traditional weaving and basketry techniques to create complex sculptures of straw, fabric and ceramic that take on organic forms. Visitors will be invited to take part in workshops to make small clay sculptures, directed by the artist, to be given to the artwork as an act of feeding it.
Uriel Orlow, an artist from Switzerland, creates pieces that engage with colonialism, memory and social and ecological justice. Learning From Artemisia (2019–20) is a mixed media piece focusing on the traditional medicinal plant, Artemisia afra – or African wormwood – traditionally used to prevent and treat malaria. Daily servings of artemisia tea, which has a range of health benefits, will be offered to visitors to immerse them further within this piece.
Local artists Nina Royle and Lucy Stein’s Crying the Neck (2023) represents the Cornish tradition, which has roots in Wicca, that takes place when the last sheaf of corn is cut at the end of the farming year. The ritual is rooted in the belief that the spirit of the last crop of corn harvested should be honoured. The work is presented as a harvest table adorned with objects, including paintings, an Ogham alphabet banner, corn dollies and books. Akin to an altar, it’s both a celebration of a time of harvest a well as a mourning of the passage of time from one fertile time of year to another dark half.
The exhibition will be complemented by a series of satellite events including a screening of Foragers (2022) by Palestinian visual artist and filmmaker Jumana Manna at CAST in Helston from 5 – 30 September. The film depicts the practice of foraging for wild edible plants in Palestine/Israel, such as the artichoke-like akkoub and za’atar. Israeli nature protection laws prohibit the foraging of these native plants, alienating Palestinians from their land and sustainable harvesting practices.
Acts of Gathering is curated by Eden’s Senior Arts Curator Misha Curson and Arts Curator Hannah Hooks and can be found in the Core Gallery at the Eden Project in Cornwall until January 3, 2024.
Access to the gallery is included in admission. Visit www.edenproject.com to find out more and book.