In an interview in 2017, Stephen Hawking said that humanity faces a survival crisis… that it is so severe that in the next hundred years, either humanity will be extinct or we will have to escape from the earth and colonies other planets.
“More than 90 percent of crop varieties have disappeared; some 75 percent of plant genetic diversity has been pushed to extinction by the monocultures of the mechanical mind. We are living in the age of the sixth extinction; this is the moment where we need to rejuvenate biodiversity on our farms and in our fields, in our kitchens and on our plates, to address the climate crisis, the health crisis, the crisis of corporate control over our food.” – Vandana Shiva
Having lived in Canada and the United States for most of my life, residing in the Italian countryside has exposed me to new and simple pleasures: freshly harvested brown and oyster mushrooms, stems still coated in dirt; tangy lemons plucked from the tree, the air wafting with a zesty fragrance released by the lightest touch; red beans couched in magenta-spotted pods. Stepping away from urban centers—where markets are perennially flush with greenhouse produce or international imports—I remember the terrestrial cycles that govern animals and plants that were familiar to my ancestors who farmed the Italian countryside.
For millennia, artistic representations of food have exposed a dialectic between abundance and waste, mimetic preservation and mnemonics of decay. As recounted by the Roman historian Pliny the elder, in a painting contest circa 464 BCE, Zeuxis of Heraclea so skillfully captured the likeness of a cluster of grapes that birds flew at the composition in an attempt to devour the illustrated morsels. Caravaggio also depicted grapes in his 1593 Bacchino Malato; but, like the waxen and jaundiced Bacchus that holds them, these fruits fester, discolored and puckering on the vine. Other genres explicitly use flora as a symbol for the passage of time. The flowers of the four seasons motif in Chinese, Japanese, and Vietnamese art of the 16th and 17th centuries suggest a whimsical and fantastical scene in which blossoms of spring, summer, fall, and winter are united in a single bouquet. By contrast, the vanitas paintings, which proliferated during the Dutch golden age, hint at caution—live your life morally and well, for all things must come to an end. Today, these symbols are joined by a new language of development and decadence. Decentralized finance, programming languages, and engineering lingo draw on fruits, vegetables, and other foods for terminology—for example, SushiSWAP meme tokens, beans, Java, and spaghetti code.
Whether captured in pixels at their most succulent or deteriorating to dust in paint, these images are ageless assets that circulate the twinned markets of capital and culture. And, simultaneously, they seem to suggest two different interpretations of our world—one of stasis and waste, another of eternal and effortless exchange. Characterizing this state in his 2016 book The Exform, Nicolas Bourriaud writes, “we inhabit an overfull world, living in archives ready to burst, among more and more perishable products, junk food and bottlenecks. All the while, capitalism boldly dreams its dream of ‘frictionless’ exchange: a universe where commodities—beings and objects alike—circulate without encountering the slightest obstacle.” Bourriaud’s text attempts to redeem the unproductive and unused, interrogating the exclusionary distinctions that have created this double vision. He insists, “What does progressive politics mean if not the taking-into-account of the excluded? …. what is an artist if not someone who deems that anything at all—including the foulest refuse—is capable of acquiring aesthetic value?”
When I was young, I never traveled to Europe to see the great masters nor did I visit museums. My only access to art was through the internet, which was only just coming into itself. I can remember the alien noises of the dial-up and the extended wait as images downloaded at a glacial pace. More often than not, those canonical works came to me pixelated, impossible to see any real art detail—each of Caravaggio’s moldering grapes rendered as a single pixel of hex color.
Seasonal is a collection of ceramic plates, lamps, photographs and videowork that collide my local Italian produce with art historical precedents for using fruits and vegetables as memento mori. Taking up Bourriaud’s reclamation of the “devalued” and drawing on my nostalgia for those poor images which gave me my first glimpses of the life of an artist, the videos in the series delineate the degradation of the image in progressively pixelated frames. By releasing one set of photographs every few weeks, I play on the idea of being “in season,” inserting a geological temporality into a realm that is otherwise seemingly untethered to the material or the worldly.
I also consider this series as a continuation of the ideas outlined by Italian Futurist Filippo Tommaso Marinetti in his 1932 “The Futurist Cookbook,” which revisioned meals as visual, musical, and tactile experiences. Through photographs and time-based media, I invite my audience to consider the theatrical and aesthetic in what may seem familiar and mundane. The series of handmade plates and lamps use impressions of the actual vegetable which speaks about fossilization. The wicker shades of the lamp refer to the straw baskets traditionally used for harvesting food. As well as a participatory element of postcards, and a food experience recreated from the Italian Futurists titled ‘Aerofood’.
While opening this group of works to the embodied experience of a viewer, I also intend for this setting of food to be read in a political light, inviting discussion and the potential for collectivity in a gesture to relational aesthetics that harkens back to my graduate studies with Rirkrit Tiravanija.
A creative writing piece acts as instructions for the visitor. The way of writing is inspired by the Futurist Manifesto Cookbook:
Slowly harvest the clay forms.
Download when in season.
Dice them up into pixels.
Mail a vegetable to your friend.
Refrigerate your edition.
Retrace your steps back to the garden.
Further back, to the 1930s.
Your date is with the Italian Futurists.
Consume until full but this time consciously.
Write a Cookbook for the next 100 years.
We are being called to the table.
A green light means go.
IIGuide through the work
I am always inspired by my location and histories of the place where I stand and this collection is no different. Seasonal was inspired by the Italian Futurist event at the Penna D’oca on November 15 1930.
The Aerofood meal is recreated. People are invited to eat with their right hand from handmade fennel dishes while using their left hand to touch three lefthand shaped ceramics that has sandpaper, velvet, and silk on top – all while I spray carnation oil on their wrist.
And they watch and hear an ASMR video of me eating the same food and caressing the same materials. A video entitled Veggie Play. A sound piece which includes Bach, voices from the local market, and sounds of eating.
A special recipe of vegan gluten-free ravioli is served within handmade ravioli cups made from using the same cutter used for the pasta dough. Each is one of a kind and served with different amounts of ravioli, some cups will have two pieces, while others may have five pieces.
The show includes one-of-a-kind lamps. Working with real vegetables to make deep imprints in the clay, I mimic fossils. The world is in crisis, our species is in talk of becoming extinct, and I would like these lamps to be a reminder that a vegetable will most likely become extinct with us. These lamps are available for purchase as I would like people to live with them, I would like people to have a daily reminder, especially when they turn on the light, that we cannot let the human race become extinct, we must take action. Find the light within us, and make a difference to help the earth. Let’s not have our vegetables, which we think are endlessly produced, just disappear.
Oddly formed plates which are meant to sit on tables or hung on walls. These plates use the same technique of pressing into the clay to mimic fossils.
Broccoli shaped forms with holes cut in order to hold test tubes. Within these tubes are different liquids filled with nutrients, vitamins and minerals to either detox the body, give it more energy, or reduce inflammation.
My grandparents immigrated to Canada in the 1950’s and opened a lighting company. My grandfather designed and made the ceramic forms and my grandmother, originally a maker of clothes from Breganze, Italy, created the lampshades.
I like to question when a form goes from sculpture to lamp, or sculpture to product. In this series there are ceramic bases that can be a sculpture, or can have a lamp placed on the inside, or a lampshade above. My favorite is when a lamp illuminates another sculpture, which is really just a base for another lamp.
Viennese wicker and other straw forms is used throughout the series. They reference the straw baskets that were originally used to gather fruits and vegetables from the garden.
Energia are ceramic forms to hold power strips. Using a specific clay which has an earth texture, I wanted these long forms to reference the ground. I invite us to ask ourselves – where are we getting our energy from? Non-renewable energy like fossil fuels which is hurting the planet, or sustainable energy such as wind, solar, and water?
Photographs of seasonal fruits and vegetables were taken throughout an entire year while living in Bassano del Grappa. I lay the fruits and vegetables on my kitchen table and wait for the sunlight, which changes direction and intensity throughout the seasons. These photographs are available in limited editions which will be released when the produce is in season. But for this show I wanted to offer an experience not just for the person visiting, but also to the person they write this postcard to. Therefore, I invite everyone at the show to write a postcard and send it to a friend of family (preferably far away). They are to write the address and put it in the ceramic mailbox. I then remove the postcards and will send these to the addresses written once the fruit or vegetable on that postcard is in season. There are 17 different fruits and vegetables on these postcards, illustrating spring, summer, autumn and winter seasons.
I wanted to reference language and the merge of technology with art today. Therefore, NFTs of pixelated fruits and vegetables are released along with the limited edition photographs. Different photographs are available which reference the food being ‘cut’, ‘consumed’, ‘diced’, ‘placed’, or ‘full’.
My studies in media and technology inspired the release of NFTs. An image of a fruit or vegetable becomes pixelated and clear, repeated endlessly. Embracing the beginnings of the internet and how I use to view important artwork that I was not able to physically visit. The proceeds from NFT’s sold will become an investment in Ethereum. Elites and patrons such as churches supported artists for hundreds of years, with the desire to break this, I believe it is important to be part of the decentralized financial world and remove the power from a select few.
The printout with the description of the show is printed on Favini crushed paper. Almond paper is cut into the shape of an almond, olive paper cut into the shape of an olive, and grape paper cut into the shape of a grape makes a nod to childhood, and the importance of the future generations being born. Let us think of the future, and leave behind a better world than we have today. The Crush paper used in this project includes by-products from grapes, olives, and almonds. These natural raw materials are saved from landfill and used to make these distinctive and vivid papers.
All the ceramics pieces have been produced in my grandfather’s hometown of Nove. I desire to continuously support this town in any way possible to save the craft of ceramic and pass the knowledge down future generations. For more information on supporting Nove, please see thefondamenta.com
The host for the show in Milan during Fuorisalone is Panzeri, a lighting company based in Lombardia since 1947.
Federica Barlassina, videographer, sound & digital editor (Bassano del Grappa)
Nicole Kaack, editor (New York)
Sandro Favotto, Favero Illumination, lighting specialist (Bolzano)
Giambattista Mossolin, Studio Emme, mold-maker (Nove)
Alessandro Mocellin, 4Emme, lamp-shade artisan (Nove)
Ruggero Carlesso, Decor 9, glaze-master (Nove)
Paolo Rigoni, Ceramiche Rigoni, ceramic specialist (Nove)
And a big thank you to Claudio Lancerini, Rosanna Cazzaro and Ludmila Koltakova.