The problem with so much of the art we see today is that it is reduced to the symbolic; it is a mediation, and is not really of the world.
What we are trying to do with our food forest project is say: abstracted life has lost its appeal, it has caused too much division and separation. With a forest of food as a public art work, we aim to show how art can again be of the world, a part of it and not merely a symbol of it. It can put back in, not just take and make waste.
Our systems, based on growth capital, have failed – resource wars, divided society, pollution, class wars, mental illness, alienation – and however glaringly obvious the fact of all this is, the level of denial remains in the symbols that surround us. Be they on billboards, television, online or in galleries, our symbolic medias are powerful and manipulative, they collectively report back to us that we are advanced and thoughtful people who can live in a world unrelated to the microbial world below our feet. This is ecological disembodiment, and the ramifications for this separated, abstracted life are proving to be disastrous for the planet.
As a mass culture we have been flattered by a sense of our own progress and sophistication, and artists and ad people have worked hard to keep this middle-class myth alive, but beyond the seductive veneers and images, progress, and the mediation of progress, is concretely killing us.
If we are to re-embed ourselves in the cycles of wild nature, and by doing so have a chance at surviving what lies for us on the horizon, then our symbolic and domesticated states have to be confronted. Our symbolic, mediated, head-only orientations require interventions by our bodies, and those things that are essential to life – air, water, food, soil, dynamic ecology, habitable climate – become again the things most highly valued and respected.
The project of world peace, to think big, is the project of dismantling the spells of mediation, symbol and image that annul, disempower and calibrate us to the dominant ideology.
Art requires a direct action that’s no longer ironising and cowardly, no longer self-conscious, anxious or innovative, but rather real and essential; a re-embodiment of natural systems.