All summer long Kew Gardens is displaying six installations across the UNESCO World Heritage Site exploring the future of our food. Food Forever is an expansive event featuring five installations, two shows in the Shirley Sherwood Gallery of Botanical Art and film screenings and talks by food innovators, scientists and chefs. The aim of this summer-long event is to educate us about our choices surrounding what we eat and how this can affect our planet and biodiversity. With the impending climate crisis, education on the impact of our eating habits, food production and sustainability is our most valuable tool.
The first installment within the breathtaking grounds of Kew is hard to miss. Matt and Helen are two giant trolls happily eating vegetable scraps in the grasses of the garden. The sculpture made from scrap wood and twigs towers over guests creating the most whimsical of scenes. Thomas Dambo, Danish recycle art activist draws his inspiration from Scandinavian folklore. His playful use of mythology addresses some of the environmental issues we as a society are currently facing. Matt and Helen show the audience the benefits of a plant-based diet and the impact of food waste. Eating food together that’s good for you and the planet is not only healthy for your body but for your mind.
Future Food Stories by the artist duo Sharp and Sour brings up a frightening consequence of the climate crisis: the extinction of our foods. As extreme weather, deforestation and rising temperatures continue to plague our planet many staples in our diet are in danger. Highlighted through interactive polls, charts and dioramas of our beloved foods, the exhibit raises the questions of “would you sacrifice your favorite foods for the benefit of the planet?” and “is the future plant-based?”. The exhibit also featured explanations of how some plant-based proteins are created such as Quorn vegan chicken nuggets. Any Gen-Z vegan will be very familiar with these incredibly tasty chicken nugget alternatives and seeing the process behind cultivating mycoprotein gave me an insightful perspective on my favorite post-night-out snack. Weaved within the interesting facts and figures was a sense of urgency. These alternatives to our familiar foods are increasingly becoming the norm out of necessity. Roasted crickets and lab grown meats, along with vegan cheese and mushroom protein are going to be populating our dinner tables and restaurant menus soon enough.
Shooting at Hunger by Serge Attukwei Clottey presents concepts of hunger and food scarcity through his colorful installation. Walking into the bright yellow space, traditional songs from the Ghanaian Homowo festival remembering the historic famine echo through the walls made from plastic Kufuor gallons. These containers are used in Ghana to transport food and water. Clottey utilizes these discarded pieces in his large installation to represent the impact of plastic waste and rising global temperatures and droughts that poorly affect crops and the farmers in the community. Although walking into this installation greeted by rhythmic African music and bright yellow interiors is like entering a room of sunshine, this dichotomy between the visuals and the subject matter creates a more profound impact on the audience. This round space fitted with benches also allows for a moment of introspection which allows one to reflect upon the daunting and omnipresent themes of Food Forever.
Walking into When Flowers Dream was like My Little Pony, Willy Wonka and Dr. Suess had a love child. Entering the indoor gallery was an attack on the senses with pastels and glitter at every corner. The main attraction was an installed landscape of candy-like sculptures which challenge us to question our consumption in a world of excess. Australian artist Tanya Shultz A.K.A. Pip and Pop is also exploring themes of food utopias and folklore through her pastel wonderland. Connected to this show was also The Art of Food which showcased many beautifully detailed botanical art pieces as a part of the Shirley Sherwood Collection. It was a palette cleanser of sorts after being engulfed by Pip and Pop’s colorful utopia.
Food Forever is an incredibly successful and massive effort to educate the public on the serious effects that climate change has on our diets and vice versa. The world is changing drastically whether we want it to or not and we must adapt as a society. I applaud Kew Gardens for taking on this behemoth and difficult topic. Having exhibitions like Food Forever are the things that will actually make a difference as we tackle this climate emergency. The exhibit is informative, influential and most importantly fun and engaging. Eliminating ignorance is the first step to improving the state of the planet and improving our health and the information presented in Food Forever is a hopeful step in the right direction.
After enjoying the many installations around the gardens make sure to stop by the Pavillion Bar and Grill to try out their guest chef’s delicious entirely plant-based menu!
Food Forever is on at Kew Gardens from 21 May to 18 September 2022. Buy tickets to Kew Gardens here: https://www.kew.org/kew-gardens/whats-on/food-forever?
A documentation of When Flowers Dream – photo taken by writer Mia Goodman.
Reviewed by Mia Goodman – Mia is currently finishing up her Art Direction degree at the University of the Arts London. Coming from an Italian-American background and living in both countries allowed her to explore her interests in traveling, cooking and the arts. Her passion for sustainability has led her to explore the intersectionality between the environment and creative industries.