6. Foodways Darmstadt Reflections


Foodways Darmstadt was well received. People had fun making the maps and walking in the parade. Co-hosts seemed pleased to be showcased and demonstrated a wealth of creativity in their contributions. Demeter, one of the largest organic wholesalers in Germany, featured the project on their blog and the Foodsharers on Facebook. The buzz about the project was far greater than the number of participants.  By the third week, people we met often had already heard about the project through social networks or the press and we even received solicitations to be part of the next iteration, as though we were an ongoing local institution.

But in our minds, the core of Foodways was not the set of public events, much as we were pleased with them as instances of what Allan Kaprow calls “art-like art.” What we really loved, what we really intended, and what will continue to be the core of the project (and of our practice) is the “life-like art” of all of the conversations and relationship-building that framed the events. We probably never have a project where we couldn’t use more time, and that was certainly true of the events we organized in Darmstadt, but in a totally positive way we would have loved more time—to have more time.

And this is also what it seems to take time for participants to “get” about the project: we are interested in food politics, on the one hand, and food-as-art(like) on the other. And we do think the maps are beautiful and a parade of vegetables to be great street theatre. But the aesthetics that we’re most interested are the aesthetics of people’s foodways themselves. A pretty line on a pretty map is great, but it’s a record, and index, of an aesthetic “line” that already exists in the real world. We don’t often talk in the rhetoric of beauty, but in one sense what the project is about is revealing a layer of beauty that people already mark out in everyday life.

Do we have any regrets?

We were disappointed that more people did not attend several of the events. We’re also sorry that we were not more systematic at collecting contact information for the people that did participate so that we could follow up and thank them. We wished we could have had greater buy-in from and more nuanced representation of the Turkish (and other immigrant) communities.  We would have preferred to move somewhat slower during the in Bewegung and had more time for dialogue during and after.  Next time, we’d like to have music in the parade but first we have to figure out what constitutes food-themed music means to us.  Send us your ideas for the playlist.  Also check out the Vienna Vegetable Orchestra.

What did we learn?

  • That one month seemed long at the outset but was barely enough to mount a single public event, let alone two, one of which was multi-centric.
  • That the day-to-day interaction with people we value so highly is difficult to capture in documentation or represent publicly.
  • That people who live in a place are already likely to have a rich personal map of the foodways of their home but that they also take great pleasure in having it noticed and appreciated by an outsider or to be surprised by what the perspective of an outsider can reveal.
  • That given a chance, a significant percentage of people will obsess about unnecessary accuracy but that we prefer that to carelessness.
  • That people sometimes have trouble differentiating between art and science (as we were frequently encouraged to instrumentalize the rich data we gathered).
  • That often consuming locally is more expensive and more labor intensive than sourcing regionally or even globally.
  • That is can as important, possibly more important, to start the publicity for a project, especially through social networks, long before there’s a specific event to announce.

What next?

  • We both think the maps have the potential to become something else more abstract.  Laurie Beth is thinking about embroidered table cloths and Michael about composite digital images or animated GIFs.
  • We have video interviews recorded with eleven of our twelve collaborators and we want to edit them into a program that can be shared abroad.  We’ll need a patient translator to do this with us.
  • We are doing reflective writing on this blog and for print publication.
  • We hope to stay in touch with some of our collaborators and look forward to sharing projects yet to be imagined with them in the future.

One thought on “6. Foodways Darmstadt Reflections

  1. Pingback: Foodways Darmstadt Wrap-Up | Spatula & Barcode

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