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Mobility and food (our first week home)

Now we are back home we find not all that much has changed. Just as it was on the road, our home-life is also all about mobility and food; how we move around and how we sustain ourselves.

After such a long time on the back of their parents’ bikes, the boys were keen to get their own forms of mobility cranking. Zeph made roadworthy one of our old tip bikes and Woody gave his hand-me-down first bike a thorough going over. Thanks Carly!

We continued to bike and walk as our main forms of mobility. Woody now walks a few kms each day.

We pedalled up to the community garden working bee (blogged here), to contribute to the community gift economy going on there.

We painted up some new signs to be put up at two of the growing number of food gardens in our small town.

We helped Peter install the signs,

and we began to organise some music events that will take place in the Albert St garden to simply celebrate life there.

We biked up to our local food co-op to buy what we couldn’t freely obtain and to support a more environmentally aware monetised economy.

We walked, bussed, trained and caught a tram to visit Woody’s great grandfather (aged 96) in the metropolis.

 We pushed our wheelbarrow over to Maria’s, our neighbour, to collect cockatoo-spoiled apples,

to feed to our girls.

We worked in our annual produce area planting some more food. This row: cayenne peppers as food-medicine for the winter.

We welcomed back Yael and Matt, Akira, Essie and Dante, who so wonderfully tended the house and garden while we were away and planted food for us to come home to. Thank you beautiful family!

We got busy in the kitchen making sauerkraut with cabbages that Matt and Yael had planted with the kids,

we revitalised our five year old sourdough starter and have been making bread daily,

we have made music each night before bed too,

and we have made our version of vegemite: miso paste, tahini, lemon juice, olive oil and garlic. Delish!

It is lovely to be home, and so far we haven’t got itchy pedals. After so many months of uncertainty, the comforts of home and community life have been both regenerative and restorative. We thank you, Dear Reader, for accompanying us on our journey in settling back into domestic life, and hope you too have both regeneration and rest cycling around in your neck of the woods.

This is Liam

Liam goes to the local secondary college and this week is doing work experience with Artist as Family. Liam lives around the corner and every day this week has arrived on his bike at 9am with a bag of wild apples picked by his mum, ready to start the day.

Rather than just relegating Liam to spend time in a studio as he might have done with other practising artists, we have been out and about this week showing him how we live and make our art of the everyday.

As we live car free, riding and looking after our bikes is a big part of what we do

as is promoting bike culture in our town, and the monthly local Critical Mass ride.

Because we don’t shop in supermarkets, thinking and talking about what we eat is also a big part of what we do. What we put in our bodies fuels the art we make, so if we want to make environmentally and socially responsible work, the food we eat needs to represent this. Every Wednesday we shop at our local organic bulk food table. This week we bought olive oil, almonds, tahini and 2kg of fresh juicy feijoas.

We made pasta.

We planted garlic before the full moon.

We measured up a potential site for a community food garden and drew up a draft plan of it to present to our local council.

We made music

and most importantly, we made a great new friend.


One of the reasons we were attracted to St Michael’s church as a site for the Food Forest is because they run a soup kitchen every Sunday morning. One of the aims for the Forest is that it will eventually supply organic fruit and vegetables to the kitchen.

We visited the kitchen this morning and shared a meal with the local residents who are all very excited about their community’s new asset. This is the hall after we helped pack up, before we headed next door to the garden.

We still had a few more things to do such as finish off mulching and say goodbye to our microbial friends in the soil, who it’s been a privilege getting to know.

We then hammered stakes around the Forest’s circumference and secured the bunting, which we won’t remove until late August when the MCA show opens.

We then went round and drew a mud map of exactly what plants are where, which we will have engraved on a plaque to be displayed in the grounds, and available here online.

We then dilly dallied. We took some more photos. We chatted to a few more passing residents about their hopes for the work. We sat down. We stood up. We chatted to the church congregation as they left their Sunday service.

And then it was time to go.

Thank you so much to everyone who helped in making this work come about.

And thank you to those whose enthusiasm and stewardship will ensure its future abundance.

A Direct Action

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.

A Food Forest

As a result of the project we did in Newcastle, we are very excited to share the news that we have been invited to participate in the In the balance: art for a changing world show at the Museum of Contemporary Art (MCA) in Sydney from 19 August to 23 November 2010.

In preparation for our project, we have visited Sydney twice in the last month. The first time we travelled by plane, but after measuring our carbon footprint between Melbourne and Sydney we decided to travel by car on interstate journeys henceforth; by bike on local journeys and by bus, train and tram on any subsequent journeys. In fact we have made the decision never to fly again until air travel is fuelled by non-polluting renewable resources.

Click for bigger.

The project we have proposed for the MCA is a community food forest. Although we will have a presence in the gallery for the show, the main part of our work will comprise fruit and nut trees planted amongst vegetation that is indigenous to Sydney; bush plants that the Cadigal, the traditional owners of the inner Sydney city region, relied on for food.

As you can imagine, one of the most important elements of a project like this is finding the right location. On our last two Sydney trips, we have ventured all over the city in search of just the right site.

We visited Murralappi, the Settlement Neighbourhood Centre,

Frog Hollow,

Fred Miller Park,

and numerous other parks, but the one we have our fingers crossed the most for is Ward Park, in Surry Hills.

This is the corner of the park we hope to plant out. It’s roughly 300sqm.

Before we drove home, we went to Ward Park once more to measure up

to pick up rubbish

to sketch our proposed food growing area

and to imagine the nearby residents looking down at the forest to see what fruit is in season.