‘agriART’ Opens at Fine Arts Gallery

Posted: April 23, 2009 at 1:00 am, Last Updated: November 30, -0001 at 12:00 am

Agri-art design

Mason’s Art and Visual Technology Department is presenting “agriART: Companion Planting for Social and Biological Systems,” on display now through May 15 in the Fine Arts Gallery on the Fairfax Campus.

Curated by Ryan Griffis and Mark Cooley, “agriART” brings together an array of art projects that critically engage with cultures of food production and consumption.

“Over the course of roughly the last 100 years, the United States (and much of the world) has been trading in agriculture for agribusiness,” Cooley says. “I think what these artists are exploring on a general level is the idea that our food systems need not be left to those who prefer to treat the basic sustenance of human beings as a commodity and little else.

“These artists are challenging this notion that our food supplies need only be handled by large organizations and corporations — that ordinary folks have the capacity to recognize and work within sustainable relationships with their communities and food supplies. The exhibition can also play an important role in making visible sustainability efforts and campus garden initiatives recently begun at George Mason University.”

At a time when issues of food production, distribution and consumption have grown increasingly prominent, the “agriART” artists are offering solutions through projects that help produce locally grown foods for communities.

Architect and designer Fritz Haeg created a project called “Edible Estates,” in which he replaced front lawns with prototype gardens at homes in the United States and Great Britain to produce food for the surrounding communities.

Social artists Ted Purves and Susanne Cockrell designed a multiyear community project that built upon the history of a formerly Italian-American immigrant community in Oakland, Calif. The community was planted with citrus and fruit trees, but in recent years the neighborhood had become dilapidated. They began distributing the fruits and vegetables to the surrounding community while also educating residents on the history of the neighborhood and crop-sharing techniques in order to create a food production network.

Amanda Matles, a teaching artist with the Center for Urban Pedagogy, worked with high school students to trace the production of the foods they eat from across the globe, and collaborated with the students to create a magazine filled with recipes from locally grown foods.

“The work on display documents and adapts for the gallery space the activities that are being pursued in the world to connect people with their sources of food and the cultures that come with it,” Cooley says.

“Many of the displays take on a participatory, educational and do-it-yourself aesthetic. The displays feature various ways in which artists have adapted to information culture and have tried to create new ways of looking and conceptualizing the gallery space based on the parameters of active participation rather than the practice of passive hands-off viewing that is emphasized in most art galleries and museums.”

This exhibit is free and open to the public. The gallery is open on weekdays from 9 a.m. to 9 p.m., and weekends by appointment. The Fine Arts Gallery is located on the ground floor of the Fine Arts Building.

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