Everything wrong with 'Grounding', 2020
On the 30th September, MFA student Rafael Perez Evans dumped "29 tonnes of fresh unwanted carrots"(Evans, 2020) outside Goldsmiths' Ben Pimlott Building as a part of his MFA degree show piece 'Grounding'.
Following this, the piece blew up across Twitter mostly with confusion as to why so many carrots were outside a university building. Upon finding out this was an art piece, even more people were enraged about the wastage of the carrots especially after seeing them dumped on the floor. Although Evans explains that "The produce in the piece are unwanted carrots, carrots that the food industry in the UK deems not worthy of shelves, the full 29 tonnes of vegetables will be collected after the exhibition and sent to feed animals." (Evans, 2020), this is not clearly communicated in the piece and has left viewers confused.
Personally this piece enraged me due to its complete lack of class consciousness, this piece is completely ignorant of the impacts that Goldsmiths as an institution - more specifically the impact that the art element of the university - has had on Lewisham, Deptford and neighbouring areas including Peckham. Goldsmiths' student culture has contributed to the gradual social cleansing and gentrification of these areas, turning them into student hubs with small art galleries opening, hipster coffee shops and lots of bars opening leading to those from the community being driven out. We are currently watching this process unfold in Elephant and Castle where UAL is contributing to the gentrification of Elephant and Castle - more on this in another post.
This year we have seen a huge rise in the need for universal credit as well as other benefits as a result of unemployment/reduction in hours due to the pandemic for example "between March, when the lockdown began, and August, the number of people claiming these benefits rose 120% to 2.7 million." (King, 2020) In Lewisham 40% of Children live below the poverty line, creating a piece like this which contains a huge amount of wastage when so many parents/carers are struggling to feed their families is insensitive to the people who live around Goldsmiths.
So many people rely on foodbanks to provide meals and food for their families, foodbanks are struggling now more than ever following the economic impact of the pandemic leading to less people being able to donate and more people relying on foodbanks. As just mentioned, Lewisham is an area where many people are living below the poverty line, dumping these carrots here is violent. This piece sits hugely uncomfortably with me as it just lacks so much thought about the impacts it has on people in the area, the wastage and the fact that people are struggling to afford food themselves at the moment.
The night of the carrot drop, a page on Instagram was set up by a group of angry students who took carrots from the piece and used them to make carrot cakes and soup which they then sold on a stand next to the piece. In total they raised £1,604.46 and are donating the money towards 4 projects: Lewisham Foodbank, Peckham Soup Kitchen, Deptford Reach and Fair Share.
Upon reflection this piece fails to communicate what it aims to do so to the 'common' viewer, even after reading the abstract that goes with the piece it is an unreadable piece that is difficult to understand other than seeing a huge pile of wasted carrots in front of a university building. Many better, more accessible ways to do this could've been through donating the carrots to food kitchens, setting up a community kitchen using wasted but safe to eat produce and creating a documentary about food wastage in the UK, or even just putting the carrots in crates so that they could be consumed safely. Why not dump the carrots in front of a supermarket store or HQ? Overall this piece just lacks a huge amount of social awareness of the area.
Evans, R., 2020. Grounding. [online] Rafael Perez Evans. Available at: <https://rafaelperezevans.com/grounding/> [Accessed 9 October 2020].
King, B., 2020. Unemployment Rate: How Many People Are Out Of Work?. [online] BBC News. Available at: <https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/business-52660591> [Accessed 9 October 2020].