CACTUS & CREATURES
Curated by FIRST FOOD ARTISTS RESIDENCY
6 October 2017 – 4 November 2017
The Koppel Project Baker Street and The Hive
Private View at The Hive: 5th October 2017, 6-9pm
“For me, the cactus defines the landscape, and symbolises the liquid spirit of Oaxaca – fiestas, street food, Mezcal and cochineal, the source of the ‘red gold’ that the city was built on”. […]
Antonia Bruce, 2017
Oaxaca is an oasis of wild beauty, a mecca for artists drawn to the colour and ancient Zapotec culture of Southern Mexico that celebrates life at one with a natural world frequented with animal spirits and a heritage that goes back for more than three thousand years. The Aztecs built a culture founded on gold while colonial Oaxaca drew wealth specifically from cochineal, the red dye that is made from insects that live on the Nopal Cactus. This fusion of cultural influences, a mythology of Gods and Creatures, underpins all that is at the heart of contemporary Mexican art.
Cactus & Creatures features artwork by nineteen young emerging and established artists from both the UK and Mexico, hosted by “First Food”, a reciprocal residency-based initiative for UK and Mexican artists responding to the integrity of native foods: corn, cacao, cactus, milk and honey. Painting, sculpture, printmaking, film and photography come together this year in an exhibition that captures the vibrant essence of Oaxaca and its relationship to cactus and edible insects.
Cactus is a staple food farmed across Mexico, particularly in Oaxaca where the prickly pear Nopal, thrives in the rugged, arid terrain, and is sliced, grilled, or juiced as part of the daily diet. The Agave cactus is farmed widely and distilled to make Mezcal, syrups and also Aloe Vera, used for beauty products, and a range of medications – more recently to suppress symptoms of Diabetes. Cochineal provides the edible reds for your lipstick and strawberry ice cream, and a spectrum of hues woven into cloths worn by indigenous Mexicans for hundreds of years and exported worldwide since the 1600s.
The UK/MEX comparison affords the perfect platform for the First Foods Project. The UK has a highly industrialised and processed food industry, which distances us from food cultivation, production, and even preparation, whereas Mexico – a country in transition – retains a ritualistic and life-affirming engagement with food and nature.
Artists included are Halima Akhtar, Rose Arbuthnott, Fiona Beveridge, Victor Bobadilla, Anna Bruce, Antonia Bruce, Chucho Caza, Anne-Laure Carruth, Holly Froy, Greer Pester, Claire Price, Olivia Stewart-Liberty, Edgar Trujillo, Pascale Wright with Stephen Chambers, Malo Farfan, Ross Fraser McLean, Guillermo Olguín and Rosemary Wise.
The Koppel Project Baker Street
7th October 2017 from 4pm to 8pm
Second opening of the exhibition Cactus & Creatures at The Koppel Project Baker Street presenting a series of workshops and events conceived by First Food Residency.
- Workshop led by FFR community manager Greer Pester, looking at Cochineal and Cactus
- Presentation by Oaxacan artist Samuel Lazer about natural dying processes
- Artist Talk from FFR artist in residence Anne-Laure Carruth on her inspiration process and experience
- A taste of Mezcal followed by a conversation about this exciting Mexican spirit by Jon Darby from Sin Gusano
*Pop-up shops with beautiful products from Oaxaca!
A percentage of donations and sales for drinks, products, and catalogues will go towards the earthquake support effort in Mexico.
Resilience Shake! Workshop day
The Koppel Project Baker Street
14th October 2017 from 12:30pm to 4pm
Join us for an afternoon of workshops from First Food Residency educational outreach program in conjunction with the UK/Mex exhibition Cactus and Creatures. This collection of workshops shall be delivered by FFR Community Outreach Manager, Greer Pester.
‘The resilience series’ will be looking at some special native Mexican foods tied into the themes exhibited through the exhibition at The Koppel Project Hive and Baker Street during the month of October. We will be looking at the Nopal Cactus – a national symbol, hardy plant and nutritious vegetable staple, we will also be experimenting with the natural red, food and product colouring: ‘Cochineal’ made from a very special bug that feeds off the Nopal Cactus, plus there will be the opportunity to try the Mexican style salted snack and potential future food – edible crickets!
Workshop 1: (12:30-2pm) NOPAL PLAY – ‘The sacred tree of hearts’
The Cactus has exploded as a visual fad around the world, you regularly see its distinctive forms printed on clothing and product and carefully placed in all the trendy spots. But when looking deeper into this unique plant you realise there are so much more reasons why we should be honouring and encouraging its use and praise in modern society.
At a time when the world is full of fierce and frightening contrasts, heating up and drying out, we look to an iconic plant like the Nopal cactus for inspiration for our own human resilience and survival. As a powerful symbol of resilience + Mexico’s honoured nutritious staple vegetable. In Nahuatl, it means ‘The tree of hearts’, it even features proudly on the national Mexican flag and is being developed as a form of fuel.
Learn more about the history, folklore and magical nutritional and health properties of this popular plant whilst constructing your own playful sculpture inspired by its shapes and forms printed and painted with your own honest commentary on social resilience. Speak and sprawl with the heart, build and play with the hands.
Workshop 2: (2:30-4pm) RESILIENT RED – Cochineal – ‘The colour of cactus blood’
‘Cochineal’ is the enchanting insect that feeds on the Nopal cactus and transforms its juice into a vivid red tint, which today exists in many of our daily products, including food and clothing. We will play and experiment with this tint and the natural elements that affect its colourful hues, making edible artworks with tortillas and this special pigment.
Watch the magical colour change with the mixing of other edible and natural elements. Participants can then fill their wrap and eat their artworks if they should desire!
This workshop aims to raise awareness of Cochineal as a natural colouring that is very much present in the food, clothing and products we unknowingly consume. It also looks to highlight the ancient mythical Mexican origins and rich folklore culture that moves round the history of this vibrant red colouring. We will paint and learn more about some other mythical creatures associated with themes of ‘resilience’ such as fierce Aztec gods and the fascinating ever-young self-healing ‘Axolotl’ salamander unique to the freshwater canals of Mexico City.
There will be the opportunity to make donations and buy some special First Food Residency products whose percentage of sales will be going towards supporting charities and organisations aiding the aftermath of the series of earthquakes that dramatically affected Mexico during the month of September.
Please note that it will be possible to sign up for these sessions at both The Koppel Project’s locations.
PHAIDON special – Can I eat that? Mini exotic eaters workshop
The Koppel Project Baker Street
21st October 2017 from 10am to 12pm
Come try those things you never imagined you could eat! Try edible salted crickets and paint a tortilla with the extraordinary natural food colouring: Cochineal! Which is made from a special little bug that feeds off the tasty Mexican cactus: the Nopal (another unimaginable edible!).
Watch its red hues change with addition of natural elements like lemon juice, bicarbonate of soda and vinegar, magically transforming from orange to purple. An opportunity to play creatively with the foods of the past and protein sources of the future!
Alongside this, Phaidon will be providing a variety of lovely books tied into this theme for the children to read and explore. Join us for a family fun morning of storytelling and edible curiosity.
Ages 0-8 should be accompanied by an adult.
Please contact email@example.com to reserve a spot.
All Souls Day – Days of the Dead special
The Koppel Project Hive
2nd November 2017 from 5pm to 8pm
In celebration of the Mexican Dias De Los Muertos (Days of the dead) festival, Greer will be facilitating an Ofrenda making workshops as part of ‘The resilience series’ and Cactus and Creatures workshop programme.
As an amalgamation of Catholicism and ancient Mexican indigenous spiritual practices, Dias De Los Muertos is a great platform for inviting a variety of religions, ages, and ethnicities to share a celebration and contemplation of one of the most commonly binding human processes – the experience of life and death.
‘OFRENDA’ – ‘Offering’ MAKING WORKSHOPS
In Mexico, during Dias De los Muertos (Days of The Dead), you will find ‘Ofrendas’ (offerings) in every nook of a home, on street corners, by a headstone or even on your local fruit and veg stall. In the UK, cemeteries are often grey and lifeless spaces which are less inviting to a community.
These traditional ‘Ofrendas’ – ‘offerings’ (also known as ‘altars’ or ‘shrines’) honour loved ones who have passed and are laced with ornate and carefully considered decorative elements- favourite foods and drinks, objects of nostalgia, candles, flowers and burning copal incense. They are sensory masterpieces that draw a centre point for families and communities to take time to reflect, mourn and celebrate the lives of their loved ones. Greer is offering the opportunity for participants to build their very own Ofrendas. She will provide the tools and materials for constructing your own altar box – all you need to bring are personal elements and precious nostalgia. She will talk you through the various symbolic elements that complete an Ofrenda and her own personal experiences of the Mexican ‘Day of the Dead’ culture, in contrast to the British cultural approach to death.
Please contact firstname.lastname@example.org to reserve your spot. We will also be constructing our very own Ofrenda at The Koppel Project Hive throughout the day. Come and get involved!
Over the course of the month, First Food Residency and The Koppel Project will be working with local school groups and The Art Room at Stockwell Primary. Funded workshop packages are available for working with vulnerable groups who would greatly benefit from the program and can offer space for facilitation. Please don’t hesitate to contact us at email@example.com if this program could work well with your community group.