A show by Melissa Merryweather
Co-organized by ‘The Factory Contemporary Arts Centre’
17 March – 15 April 2017
Public opening party: 16 March from 6.30pm
In our increasingly global world agriculture is at an interesting cross-roads: modestly well-off consumers in many places around the world have more choice than ever before, but this choice is less and less connected to local terroir and cuisine. Exposure to the global market shapes local tastes. At the same time some have become concerned about the long-term effects of consuming highly processed, packaged food, and have begun to demand food that is more environmentally sound, less chemically altered, and with a focus on nutritional and health benefits. This new consumer movement is encouraging small farmers, foragers and producers to respond, and in effect, to allow society to regain some of the benefits of a pre-consumer agrarian plenty but in convenient format. Ironically the hyper-fast commercial process has seized on this movement and propelled it forward; food-fashion started by urban sophisticates and “health nuts” can now be picked up in the brightly lit aisles of a small-town supermarket in Ohio. However, the most exotic and heavily-hyped foodstuffs are often packaged and processed as much as their predecessors, or at the very minimum taken out of cultural context and adapted to global tastes (if in doubt, add it to a smoothie).
Only opened up to global development in the past few decades, Vietnam’s distinctive local cuisine still thrives but is increasingly usurped by packaged fast food sold in chain stores. Local markets are disappearing in favor of commercial malls and food courts. “Peculiar Fruit” is a documentation of the fabulous and bizarre fruits available in the local markets in southern Vietnam, with a selection that represents the entire growing cycle. Many of these fruits will fail to transcend their relevance to local cuisine and local palates, or to comply with the commercial logistics of shipping, storage, and uniform appearance.
Recently there has been resurgence in botanical illustration, partly because of an awakened focus on the natural world and on our ecosystems even as we destroy them. There is urgency in recording and hopefully protecting some of our disappearing species. Photographed in natural light and placed on a neutral background, the single-object compositions of these photographs recall both botanical illustrations and scientific specimens. They celebrate the specificity and unique abundance found in a local marketplace on the tip of globalization.