After moving up to Huddersfield, I had one final day to spend dashing around London. Thanks to Covid-19, the van hire firm were not doing pick-ups so I had to drop the vehicle back myself before getting picked up by my girlfriend later that evening. An eight-hour round trip that we could have done without after an exhausting and nightmarish weekend.
On the bright side, this meant a six-hour lay-over, which I decided to spend in New Cross, hanging around Goldsmiths with Natasha Eves and Giles Thackway, whilst Giles was getting prepped for the opening of his MFA degree show that Friday evening.
Another artist involved in the show was Rafael Pérez Evans. As we sat and caught up, Giles mentioned that Rafael would be dumping three tonnes of carrots at the Ben Pimlock building at 3pm. It sounded like something to do. Also, at first, I thought he said “off” the Ben Pimlock building, MIT-style…
This was not the case but the result was nonetheless jaw-dropping. It turned out it wasn’t three tonnes but twenty-nine, and when they fell out the back of the truck they momentarily took on the consistency of water. I posted a video on Twitter and within 24 hours it had clocked up 100,000 views. Some Twitter users noted it was a good demonstration of Fermi energy… I don’t know about any of that physics stuff, but it was an incredible sight.
My genuinely shocked response seemed to capture something of the energy and anticipation circling an act that no-one present seemed to understand.
Frankly, the not-knowing only added to the surreality of it all. It was a quintessentially Goldsmithsian spectacle. Nevertheless, on his website Pérez Evans explains that the piece, called “Grounding”, is “a site-specific intervention exploring some of the tensions in visibility between the rural and the city”; “a monumental gesture” combining “farmers’ protest with a simple therapeutic ritual.”
Dumping is a form of protest, regularly used by European farmers that react against a central government which devalues their labour, agency and produce to points of ridiculousness. This devaluation often produces an enforced invisibility, which is often reciprocated by farmers who create hyper-visible gestures by dumping their devalued produce. Vegetables such as carrots or potatoes become monumental barricades that can block governmental buildings or roads and with it interrupt the usual city flow. The city is a site that suffers from food, plant and soil blindness, a place hyper-separated from its periphery, its food and its labourers. Dumping protests bring blinded city people into an alarming contact with their forgotten foods and its production.
The produce in the piece are unwanted carrots, carrots that the food industry in the UK deems not worthy of shelves, the full 29 tonnes of vegetables will be collected after the exhibition and sent to feed animals. This site-specific intervention offers itself as a sculptural exercise in grounding, ‘bringing back to earth’ some of the dissociative and opaque practices of the metropolis and the university industrial complex.
Unfortunately, and somewhat unsurprisingly, this explanation didn’t placate what felt like a large portion of the internet descending on my mentions after my video of Evans’s “grounding” went a little bit viral. Not that an artist’s statement means people have to like something — in fact, more often than not they really don’t help these things — but the reactionary hoards looking for a fight were mind-numbing nonetheless, especially since I now lived 300 miles away now and was probably the person least connected to the whole affair who was present. If people have an issue with it, best to take it up with the university or Rafael; I was simply passing through.
In the end, I had to go on a muting frenzy to shut up all the repliers wanting to shoot the messenger about this waste of food or those endlessly wishing to ask the “but is it art?” question. There was even a comment left on my “Moving Day” post, to the tune of “Using edibles to show off with is the action of spoiled little rich children with no actual concerns. A bit like faking being a gothic demon.” Fair enough, I guess? Truly, people are idiots. The whole thing has made me feel much better about the current sparsity of my onlineness. I’m curious to see how long I can make it last.
Suffice it to say, posting the video felt like tipping up my own lorry of Twitter users, as a hundred people all responded with variations on the exact same opinion. I later had a load of journalists sliding into my DMs wanting to broadcast it in various places. In the end, I signed it away to Storyful — an interesting experience in itself. Later I ended up on Yahoo! News as the “carrot laugher” — the cherry on top of an already strange few days.
Moving house was an absolute nightmare — the less said about it the better — but, all things considered, this was a fun and unexpected end to a nightmare week. All the craziness died down over a week and a half ago but I’ve only just got back a roll of film on which I took a load of photographs of the resulting carrot pile. Again, if I’d planned ahead and known what was coming, I probably wouldn’t have shot twenty-nine tonnes of orange in black-and-white… Nevertheless, here’s some more photos from Rafael Pérez Evans’s controversial carrot drop.