Grace Denis is a wonderful artist working at the convergence of agricultural research and interactive installation, delving into research of contemporary food system challenges.
She has experimented with food scanning a lot in her previous work – see here – and introduced the art form to Funga. Below you can find an interview with @dracegenis about her work and the resulting Grace Denis x Funga prints:
When did you first start scanning food?
I started scanning in 2015, so almost seven years ago, when a nutritionist had asked me to keep a food diary. Scanning became a more comprehensive modality to render an archive of what I was consuming, and through this method, I became transfixed by the process of rendering visual cartographies of my consumption. It can either be really enthralling or rather ominous, depending on what you are eating, to see it all mapped out in images. I gave the book to my nutritionist at the end and she was quite shocked. I continued to scan as a way of archiving the ingredients and specimens I encountered in my research.
Can you tell me a little bit about the projects you’ve done in the past?
My most recent project is a piece titled Aural Oral, which is a series of site-specific studies and sensorial junctures in agricultural research, offering a sensorial reflection on processes of cultivation and consumption. The meal pairs an auditory archive of its ingredients with its ingestion, employing various microphones to transmit a series of recordings of culinary and cultivation actions coupled with environmental sounds from the site of production. Each accompanying track sketches a sonic cartography of the dish, amplifying the micro-actions of both the farm and the kitchen, proposing resonant reflections of its cultivation and consumption to extend beyond the domain of the gustatory. Aural Oral draws reference to acoustemological research, as coined by Stephen Feld, that valorizes methodologies of “knowing-with and knowing-through the audible.” Earlier this year I did an iteration of the project in Mexico City, in which I had the opportunity to work with the amazing collective, Cocina Colaboratorio, on one of their projects in Xochimilco. This past week I worked with foodculture days, a biennale and platform sharing knowledge and know-how on food and ecology, on a listening session for a part of the series that was recorded at agroecology collective Praz Bonjour.
How did you find these mushrooms?
These mushrooms were collected on a hike in Estado de México, led by the incredible Nanae Watabe. Nanae is an incredibly knowledgeable mushroom forager from Mexico City with whom I went on an incredible ten-hour journey in the mountains. We went in August which is one of the peak months of wild mushrooms in Mexico, aptly nicknamed hongosto.
Where does your interest in mushrooms come from?
My interest in mushrooms has been omnipresent, I have always really enjoyed the fact that the large organism in the world is mycelium – there is one in Oregon that measures 9km square. I think there’s so much to learn not only about, but also from them.
If you could choose to exist as one plant, what would it be?
Probably a moss or a bryophyte, I find the fact that they occur in a multitude of ecosystems, often quite intense ones, to be a testament to their resilience. They are the second most diverse plant group and date back 450 million years. I love that they have no roots or vascular tissue, and rather absorb water and nutrients from the air. In warm climates, they protect tree roots by shading and insulating, and in the artic, they have the capacity to reduce the speed of thawing ice.
I also really love the Saguaro cactus, found in the Sonoran desert, which can grow up to 150 to 200 years old. They host a vast array of wildlife, including woodpeckers and owls that nest inside them. Their speed of growth is incredibly slow, some ten-year-old plants measure less than 5 cm, but can grow up to 18 meters tall over the course of their lifespan. I find their slowness a potent metaphor for reexamining our relationship to time.