Cooking Sections’ Residency Blog Post

Cooking Sections, the London-based duo of Daniel Fernández Pascual and Alon Schwabe, share their blog post about their short-term residency at Fresh Milk, where they conducted a number of interviews and meetings with both artists and professionals working across the agricultural sector to inform their research based practice and their ongoing project The Empire Remains. Read more below:

Cooking Sections_cane harvest4

Is this the end of a sugar era? In past years the sugar crop harvest has been delayed further and further into spring. Refusing to start the crop before the government paid farmers for last year’s yields, harvest was postponed this time for about three months, starting during our visit to Barbados on April 7th. Never before had sugar cane harvest started so late, a sign of the great challenges the industry is undergoing. The possibility of a 400 year-history of cane disappearing seems to float around people’s minds, given that there is only one sugar factory remaining operative on the island (Portvale). At the local Massy Supermarket, we encountered on the shelf a box of sugar cubes from an array of sugars all made in the USA, as well as from UK-based Tate&Lyle, a sugar empire that later constituted Tate Britain. More than ever, sugars travel along and back and forth from one side of the Atlantic to the other, changing colour, shape, texture, volume and physical states with every journey: raw, bulk, brown, white, brownish, whitish, golden, bagged, dyed, molassified, syrupised, caramelised, brownified

We learned that Barbados has an average of merely 12 inch deep soil. That extremely thin layer of agricultural ground is not only made out of sediments that the sea once eroded from surrounding volcanic islands and washed forward onto the Barbadian plateau. The soil is made of the remnants of the sugar cane that, unlike the majority of sugar plantations worldwide, are not burnt but accumulated on-site as layers that enhance the quality of the soil through their rotting, while protecting it from heavy rains. The reduction in tonnage of sugar extracted (not produced) from cane also opens new challenges, not only for the sustainable geology of the island, but for tightly related industries such as tourism and Barbadian rum. For the former, visitors need to keep being attracted by the image of undulating Caribbean landscapes covered in cane. For the latter, rum is running out of the local molasses that absorbs all the specific nutrients and minerals from the Barbadian subsoil, raising the question of Barbadianness in a rum more and more made out of foreign sugars. However, is it the molasses that really affects the finished rum product when it is distilled and cleaned from its biological and chemical components in the process of becoming alcohol? Or is it rather the diverse mechanisms of adding value that Barbados, like many other island nation states, tries to establish in order to shift from a historic role of commodity providers to become product owners?

At stake is also a controversial construction of an additional sugar factory. The new $42,000,000 project, promoted by the Barbados Government, aims to transform the no longer operational Andrews Sugar Cane Factory into a multipurpose processing plant. It is not to revive the island’s history but rather to envision a different future. If sugar once replaced the alcohol ration for soldiers in order to extend their operation hours, sugar cane has slowly become a biofuel to provide renewable sources of energy. Time will tell whether the new plant will truly help the national economy or be another example of mismanaging international development aid through needless pharaonic infrastructures that only benefit a few.

Cooking Sections_cane harvest3

Over 10 days of interviews, meetings, conversations and field visits with farmers, researchers, visual arts practitioners, factory managers, and policy-makers, we learnt about the difficulties of post-plantation Caribbeanness and the relationship of a region of island states, more or less disconnected from each other, that are facing similar challenges at planetary scales. That Barbados has only 2 endemic species out of its 650 different plants and that the island is suffering from seaweed invasion cycles coming from the Equator are just two facts that made us reflect on the economy of extraction and the value of nature from a global perspective. Almost 200 years after the abolition of slavery in all territories of British rule, conflicts about race, speculative flows and food sovereignty seem not to be yet fully reconciled with their past.

Jordan Clarke’s Residency – Week 2 Blog Post

Barbadian-Canadian painter Jordan Clarke shares her second blog post about her Fresh Milk residency. She addresses the direction her work is taking, focusing on self-portraiture and developing the background of her pieces to suggest a sense of space, and has continued to explore the island alongside fellow resident artists Daniel Fernández Pascual and Alon Schwabe of Cooking Sections. Read more below:

Self portait

Two weeks into the residency and it feels like I just arrived.

I’ve been spending the majority of my time in the studio creating, reflecting and taking everything in. I’m sensing this as a time for gathering images, ideas and information that will find expression in my future creations.

It seems that I have gravitated towards self-portraiture as a way to access how I am feeling and thinking about myself in relation to this new place, Barbados. In addition to working from images, I have taken on the challenge of drawing myself from life each day. To assist me, Annalee set up a large mirror in the studio space. What I’ve found interesting is that none of the portraits drawn from life look completely like me.

Over the past week, I have been thinking about identity and how it is shaped. I realize now that my sense of identity is not linked directly to Barbados, despite my father’s Bajan roots.  This is the perfect opportunity for me to think about how I would like to identify, how I see myself, as well as how my life experiences have shaped me.

Mid week I met Barbadian artist Simone Padmore who addresses themes of identity in her work.  Some of her illustrations can be found in ARC magazine issue #5.

Towards the end of the week I began to think about the landscape, and how I could paint myself into one. The figure and landscape have always been separate for me. In my work the background suggests a sense of space rather than a specific place or location. I’m not sure where this will go, but it is something I am working on.

It was Easter weekend, and on Good Friday Annalee made a delicious gluten free quiche for our lunch. I am definitely being spoiled here!

An exciting event for me was finding out that early Saturday morning a horse was born on the family farm.

West coast beach

I ended the week traveling part of the West Coast with Alon and Daniel of Cooking Sections, who are also doing a residency here at Fresh Milk. We started at a lively market in Bridgetown. It was a completely different experience from the quiet and serene studio in St. George. I enjoyed the liveliness and dancehall music on the mini buses. We also took some time to enjoy ourselves on the beach. The West Coast is ideal for swimming, in contrast to the rugged picturesque East Coast. Our day ended with food and music at the Oistins Fish Fry on the South Coast.

Looking forward to the week ahead.


2014 OAC logo RGB JPG

This residency is supported by the Ontario Arts Council.

Fresh Milk welcomes Cooking Sections to the platform

Fresh Milk is happy to announce that between March 30 – April 10, 2015, we will host Cooking Sections, the London-based duo of Daniel Fernández Pascual and Alon Schwabe. Read more about their research-based practice that explores the overlapping boundaries between visual arts, architecture, geopolitics and food:

Empire Remains Christmas Pudding__ Cooking Sections 2013, Delfina Foundation, London.

Empire Remains Christmas Pudding, Cooking Sections 2013, Delfina Foundation, London.

Cooking Sections is a London based duo of spatial practitioners with a research based practice that is focused on the organisations of the world through food. For the past two years our work has been mainly devoted to the Empire Remains. The project explores the infrastructure and cultural imaginaries that were set up by the British Empire to promote the food and agricultural industry between home and overseas territories at the beginning of the 20th century. The Empire Remains attests the ways global food networks have evolved until today. The work traces the contemporary history of imperial bananas, sugar, tobacco, cacao, fruits, spices, condiments as well as the new economies and visions that emerged out of them. During the course of the project they are developing a series of objects and products reflecting on the legacy of such trade networks and how they affect the world we live in. The project will culminate in 2016 with The Empire Remains Shop in London, a project space exhibiting the process and research.

The Empire Remains project is developed through various research trips and residencies around the world in collaboration with a number of cultural institutions. Thanks to the support of Fundación Jumex Arte Contemporáneo, Cooking Sections will spend the month of April in the Caribbean, taking on the Fresh Milk Residency. This trip will investigate the sharp decline in the Caribbean food crops and the critical reinvention of the landscape through agricultural innovation, tourism and offshore activities. In June, Cooking Sections will participate in a residency at Artport, Jaffa-Tel Aviv, dedicated to researching the Jaffa brand in oranges since its establishment during the British Mandate until its current state, when it has been mostly outsourced to groves in Spain and Morocco. Currently several more research trips are being developed towards fieldwork in New Zealand, Hong Kong, Montreal, Mumbai and South Africa.

Daniel Fernández Pascual and Alon Schwabe. Image by Victor Staaf.

 Daniel Fernández Pascual and Alon Schwabe. Image by Victor Staaf.

About Cooking Sections:

Cooking Sections is Daniel Fernández Pascual & Alon Schwabe. They are a duo of spatial practitioners based out of London that emerged out of Goldsmiths University. Using installation, performance, mapping and video, their research-based practice explores the overlapping boundaries between visual arts, architecture, geopolitics and food. Cooking Sections was selected for OFFICEUS, the exhibition at the U.S. Pavilion, 2014 Venice Architecture Biennale commissioned by Storefront for Art and Architecture, New York. Their work has also been exhibited at the Festival of Future Nows, Institut Für Raumexperimente, Neue Nationalgalerie Berlin; dOCUMENTA(13); Peggy Guggenheim Collection, Venice; CA2M, Madrid; TEDxTalks, Madrid; Fiorucci Art Trust, London; xACC Weimar; SOS 4.8, Murcia; Haus der Kulturen der Welt, Berlin; Storefront for Art & Architecture New York; 2014 Biennale INTERIEUR, Kortrijk; and have been 2014 residents in The Politics of Food at Delfina Foundation, London. They have recently been recipients of the 2015 Jumex Fundación de Arte Contemporáneo research grants. Their work has been published by Sternberg Press, Lars Müller, Punctum Books, and several international magazines and journals, like Volume, Domus, 2G, The State, Zawia and Utopia amongst others.

The development of The Empire Remains project in The Caribbean was made possible with the supported of the 2015 research travel grant from Fundación Jumex Arte Contemporáneo, Mexico.