Principal Investigator: Michael Buser, University of the West of England
Co-investigators: Emma Roe, University of Southampton; Liz Dinnie, James Hutton Institute.
Collaborators: Knowle West Media Centre, The Matthew Tree Project, Edible Landscapes Movement
Duration: 2013

FOODSCAPES was an AHRC Connected Communities project that explored the use of art as a way of opening up discussion about food, food poverty and sustainable communities. Participants included Knowle West Media Centre, The Matthew Tree Project, the Edible Landscapes Movement, UWE Bristol, University of Southampton, the James Hutton Institute and Paul Hurley (artist-in-residence). Together, we explored how arts intervention and cultural engagement can help address social and economic exclusion, food poverty, and sustainability. As co-designed action research, the project also examined how arts intervention can enhance interchange between community organisations and research institutions.

Foodscapes centered on a 10-day interactive and performative exhibition in Bristol’s city centre – which was visited by over 900 people. During the event, participants were invited to share and exchange knowledge and experiences about food and to participate in activities already being undertaken by members of the project team. We purposefully avoided didactic methods of exchange and relied on the juxtaposition of various food practices and materials to create non-linear experiences to solicit conversation and draw out meaning. Participants were encouraged to attend to different lived experiences with food preparation and eating and were invited to respond not as ‘ethical consumers’ but as ‘ecological citizens’. The ‘matter’ of food was also central as the exhibition brought together experiences, materiality and aesthetics of our project partners into a performative and multisensory space. This offered visitors a direct bodily engagement (e.g. kneading bread, smell of tomato plants, weight of the foodbank basket) with some of our research material.