An art exhibition that is also a working café, Feral Trade Café opens at HTTP Gallery for 8 weeks during Summer 2009. Serving food and drink traded over social networks, Feral Trade Café by artist Kate Rich (AU) provides a convivial setting from which to contemplate broader changes to our climate and economies, where conventional supply chains (for food delivery and cultural funding) could go belly up.
The term ‘feral’ denotes the project’s wilful wildness (as in pigeons) as opposed to romantic or nature-wildness (wolves): it offers street-wise survival tactics for urban environments. Since the first registered Feral Trade import of 30kg of coffee direct from the growers in El Salvador to the Cube Microplex in Bristol in 2003, Kate Rich has used social networks to traffic edible produce from around the world. Feral Trade participants become mules, carrying food items with them on trips they would have taken anyway and delivering them to depots (usually friends’ and colleagues’ flats or workplaces) in the growing network.
The process is facilitated by an online database, handcrafted by the artist, where couriers log their journeys. This forms the sole physical infrastructure for an alternative freight network, which operates without any material assets (vehicles, staff, communications devices, depots). It enables producers, couriers and buyers to track not only the transit of their own produce but all grocery movements in the network; outputting waybills that document the details of sources, shipping and handling with the kind of microattention that ingredient listings normally receive.
The exhibition includes a retrospective display of Feral Trade goods (2003-present) alongside ingredient transit maps, video, bespoke food packaging and other artefacts from the Feral Trade network. This is art that you can eat, and the café will stock and serve a selection of Feral Trade products from a menu including coffee from El Salvador, hot chocolate from Mexico and sweets from Montenegro, as well as locally sourced bread, vegetables and herbs. Along with their food and drink, diners will be served waybills documenting the socially facilitated transit of goods to their plate. Visitors can also purchase groceries to take home.
Feral Trade has been based in Bristol since 2003 and is well established among media arts practitioners and organisations, who act as couriers, diners and depots in the network. Kate Rich’s Feral Trade Café at Furtherfield.org’s HTTP Gallery extends the model more deeply into the economy of the not-for-profit arts. As well as serving Feral Trade goods, the café will provide a local trading station and depot for the Feral Trade network, and present research and discussion around both food provenance and hospitality protocols for artist-run venues. HTTP Gallery has invited groups from the local Harringay community, as well as local and international artists to contribute their own home-produced food items for sale in the café. Proceeds will support the producers, ongoing development of the project, and HTTP Gallery. Local groups with interest in food, ecology, media and art will also be invited to use the Café as a meeting space.
Feral Trade Café is the first element of Furtherfield.org’s three-year Media Art Ecologies programme, which aims to provide opportunities for critical debate, exchange and participation in emerging ecological media art practices, and the theoretical, political and social contexts they engage. The café will be host to events, initiated by Furtherfield.org and others, examining issues related to the Feral Trade and Media Art Ecologies projects, including a Media Art Ecologies networking day. Further info and dates (TBC)
Catalogue Essay: Ecologies of Sustenance by the HTTP Gallery curatorial team
On the occasion of the exhibition, Furtherfield.org and HTTP Gallery are pleased to publish a new essay about the Feral Trade project by writer, artist and designer Femke Snelting of De Guezen (NL)- Feral Labelling
About Kate Rich
Kate Rich is an Australian-born artist & trader. In the 1990s she moved to California to work as radio engineer with the Bureau of Inverse Technology (BIT), an international agency producing an array of critical information products including economic and ecologic indices, event-triggered webcam networks, and animal operated emergency broadcast devices. The Bureau’s work has been exhibited broadly in academic, scientific and museum contexts. Restless at the turn of the century, she headed further east to take up the post of Bar Manager at the Cube Microplex, Bristol UK where she launched Feral Trade. She is currently moving deeper into the infrastructure of cultural economy, developing protocols to define and manage amenities of hospitality, catering, sports and survival in the cultural realm.
Feral Trade – http://www.feraltrade.org
GastroGeek – http://gastrogeek.wordpress.com/2009/07/29/wasted-again/
Kate Rich – http://bureauit.org/data/krcv/
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