Posted Monday, February 8th, 2010 at 3:26 pm
On Sunday, I went to check out the kick-off event for EATLACMA, a year-long series of exhibits that examine the connection between food, society and culture at the Los Angeles County Museum of Art. The events are curated by Fallen Fruit founders Matias Viegener, David Burns, and Austin Young.
If you don’t know, Fallen Fruit is an “art collaboration” that began by making maps of public fruit – fruit trees growing on or over public property. Like culinary treasure maps, they guide city residents to forage their own edibles in the urban jungle.
The project is a lot of fun. But, it also challenges people to see and interact with their neighborhoods in a new way: not merely as residents, but as the hunter-gatherers we all are at heart. (You know you feel it!)
For Apartment Farmers, this is a perfect way to live off the land. When my husband and I realized there was no Fallen Fruit map for Santa Monica, we spent one weekend beginning to make our own – carefully walking the alleys and byways of our hood. It was amazing how the sudden attention to detail changed the way we see our familiar landscape. Take a close look around, and the jewel tones of trees heavy with fruit start popping out of the landscape, like some Peter Max cartoon. But you’ll also start to notice how many trees are painfully out of reach, deep within the confines of private property – and simply going to waste un-harvested.
Fallen Fruit is seeking to change this with their “Plant The Perimeter” campaign. They ask us to imagine a neighborhood in which we could simply walk outside and pick all the fruit we need. What if the average distance to get a piece of fruit shrunk from the current 1,000 miles, to 100 feet? By growing fruit trees on the edges of property lines, instead of pointless ornamental shrubs, we could transform our city into an urban Eden.
So, to kick-off EATLACMA on Sunday morning, Fallen Fruit sponsored a fruit tree give-away. They started at noon, and had a huge turnout. By the time I arrived at 12:30, all the trees were already spoken for. (So sad!) But all the lucky early birds got a baby tree – complete with adoption papers. In these official-looking forms, the new “parents” promised to care for their tree and plant it in a publicly accessible spot. After all, the trees will still be here long after we’re gone.
Frankly, I found it odd, at first, to see fruit trees at the museum. Fruit and art seem to me like, well, apples and oranges. The museum is a place where objects are often taken out of their natural environment, stripped of context, and placed in a vacuum. And we all know how nature feels about vacuums. The museum is the antithesis of a thriving eco-system.
EATLACMA is trying to bridge this gap between art and nature, seeking to frame a new relationship between the museum’s permanent collection and the ever-changing natural cycle of growth in this exhibit. By bringing the outside in, these fruit trees represented a nexus between food, art, culture and politics. The trees create a new context in which to see the artwork, and force us to see the oranges-to-be through a new lens – as edible art.
I was finally able to make the connections: Art is fruit, fruit is food, art is food, eat art: EATLACMA.
Now that’s a sweet idea.