Deserts Don’t Bloom, Salmon Don’t Fly? is a discussion between artist Leen Ajlan and Hayy Learning Food Lab mentors and artists Cooking Sections on regenerative agricultural futures, and how socially and ecologically engaged artistic practices can respond to unsustainable food systems and imaginaries of abundance in desert and oasis environments that are exacerbating the ecological crisis.
Set on the intertidal zone at Bayfield, CLIMAVORE: On Tidal Zones explores the environmental effects of aquaculture and reacts to the changing shores of Portree, Isle of Skye. Each day at low tide, the installation emerges above the sea and functions as a dining table for humans, with free tastings of recipes featuring ocean cleaners: seaweeds, oysters, clams and mussels. At high tide, the installation works as an underwater oyster table. The installation was activated by Cooking Sections in collaboration with local stakeholders, residents, politicians and researchers. Over breakfast, lunch, or dinner (according to the tides), performative meals featured a series of CLIMAVORE ingredients that respond to the environmental challenges of Scottish waters. The project also engaged with 10 local restaurants that removed farmed salmon off their menu and introduced a CLIMAVORE dish instead. The long-term project aims to look at CLIMAVORE forms of eating that address environmental regeneration and promote more responsive aqua-cultures in an era of man-induced environmental transformations.
Ajlan is interested in the recuperation of cleaner water sources by transforming date plantations into food forest growing systems, which naturally allow the land to recover from phosphate pollution. As the first step in this process, Deserts Don’t Bloom, her artwork that is part of ‘Staple:What’s on your Plate?’ is a proposal for a hydrophobic shading system that can both collect water to nourish the forests whilst simultaneously monitoring it for phosphate contamination. This bio-indicator composite changes tones depending on the amount of phosphate present in the condensation.
Leen Ajlan is an architectural designer from Jeddah, Saudi Arabia, currently based in London. Her upbringing in Jeddah has underpinned her interests in the physical and virtual representation of Arab culture and built environment in the Western eye, and the complexities of decolonising those depictions. Her current project is based in Al Ahsa Oasis, Saudi Arabia, where she is interrogating the production and use of phosphate fertilisers on date palm plantations to enhance date production in the region.
Cooking Sections examines the systems that organise the world through food. Using site-responsive installation, performance and video, they explore the overlapping boundaries between art, architecture, ecology and geopolitics. Established in London in 2013 by Daniel Fernández Pascual and Alon Schwabe, their practice uses food as a lens and tool to observe landscapes in transformation. They have worked on multiple iterations of the long-term site-responsive CLIMAVORE project since 2015, exploring how to eat as humans change climates.
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