Arcadia prints (above) are available for sale.
An art review of Arcadia is published on Recessed Space.
Click here to read Radical Queer Bakers.
Arcadia takes place in the home, a space that Stephen Vider, author of The Queerness of Home (2020), highlights as a “stage of performance” (ibid: 10). The home has historically been weaponised against queerness, and engaged by it, and Vider explores the domestic space as a site of “integration and resistance” (ibid: 3). In my own practice, domesticity has become prevalent in understanding contemporary patterns of consumption. I turn to the home as a space to apply knowledge and research into food production systems, concurrent consumption, and prevailing contemporary agricultural practices. I present both the home, and these practices as spaces and notions bound by heteronormativity, which I have then ‘queered’: subverted; corrupted; perverted from their codified forms, to present new and alternative modes of understanding them.
Theatre and comedy can be forms of subversion enabling a transvaluation of norms. Camping and queering are also forms of subversion, corrupting codified strictures and structures of heteronormativity. These are all forms of artifice, a word that, despite its connotations with cunning and deception, is rooted in art—the Latin artificium being based on ars, ‘art’ + facere, ‘to make’. In Notes on ‘Camp’ (2018 ), Susan Sontag writes that camp is “the love of the exaggerated, the ‘off’, of things-being-what-they-are-not” (ibid: 8). Theatre can enlighten and trick its audience. Playing on reality, through subversion it presents new perspectives and alternative actualities. The ability to perceive and then subvert societal norms comes from a place of removal, the outsider's aspect. Arcadia is artifice. It mimics notions of home and landscape through theatrical tropes, playing with perceptions and presenting different realities. Sontag, again: “Camp is art that proposes itself seriously, but cannot be taken altogether seriously because it is 'too much.’” (ibid: 17).
Through the window hangs a backdrop, The Surreality of Reality: representing the stereotypical ‘cereal packet’ view of a bucolic agrarian landscape—rolling fields of golden wheat; mown lawns, sprinklers, and white picket fences—painted in bright, juvenile colours, it could be a scene from a story book. Traditional Surrealism takes the quotidien, and visually subverts it, presenting a new form. In The Surreality of Reality I have presented our agricultural reality leaning on the notion of surrealism—ridicule of the norm based on the abstraction of reality—to comment on the surreality of monocultural farming practices. ‘Monoculture’ is an agricultural term that defines the cultivation of a single crop in a given area. A social ‘monoculture’ indicates the dominance of singularity, be it an entity, identity, or idea: a prevailing politics or religion; an ethnic or cultural homogeny; a heteronormative society. In Arcadia, I highlight both the social and the agricultural monocultures that dominate culture and nature, drawing parallels between the two.
Strewn across the floor are torn ceramic condom wrappers labelled ‘Fortified,’ and bread in the shape of used condoms, baked from white flour and industrial yeast. The set is weighted by paper sacks labelled ‘Strong White Flour.’ All these elements refer to the singularity of white flour in our food production. The fortification of white flour is an industrial process where nutrients stripped from wheat during its milling are reintroduced, enriching a flour made nutritionally void by industrial processing. ’Strong white flour’ has a high gluten content of 11.5%+—the industry standard in bread baking (Bell, 2020). Baking bread from strong white flour and industrial yeast and presenting it alongside condom wrappers labelled ‘Fortified’ is a play on the prophylaxis of diversity. The labelling on the sacks, and their use as sandbags on the set, emphasises the metaphorical weight of these food production practices.
Lining the room, the wallpaper depicts scenes of ‘cruising’, where gay men congregate at hidden locations to have sex—a hangover from when homosexuality was a criminal offence; while also naturalising the act, by placing it in nature, and normalises it into the form of a recogniseable toile style. In their introduction to Queer Ecologies (2010), Catriona Mortimer-Sandilands and Bruce Erikson highlight the importance of nature in the understanding gay identity: “natural settings have been important sites for the exploration of male homosexuality as a natural practice” (ibid: 23).
Radical Queer Bakers lies open on the floor at its centrefold, a depiction of queer care between a baker and his dough. Pamphlets and zines have often been used as tools of rebellion in LGBTQ activism, creating safe spaces to communicate, while also helping normalise queer identities by their proliferation. This publication is inspired by the queer publications that have been instrumental in LGBTQ activism, leaning on their design and aesthetic.
Where Arcadia focuses on singularity, previous work has explored the notion that plant diversity equals food security. Bent Bread, part of The Baker’s Bedroom, is a 12 hour fermented sourdough loaf baked from numerous grains, legumes, and seeds. The recipe is designed to nourish both soul and soil. Not only does it provide rounded nutrition, the various seeds used are companion plants that thrive when cultivated together, providing a functioning ecology. The shape of the loaf plays on the rigidity of the bread tin, a symbol of domestic life, a normative straightjacket. By bending the tin—nodding to the slur ‘bender’—the piece quite literally breaks the constraints of heteronormativity.
The Barbican, (2022). ‘Out and About’, exhibition at The Barbican.
Bell, K. Population Loaf Pop Up. 05/02/22, Leila’s Shop, London.
Mortimer-Sandilands, C. and Erickson, B. (2010). Queer Ecologies. Indiana: Indian University Press. Sontag, S. (2018 ). Notes on ‘Camp’. London: Penguin.
Vider, S. (2021). The Queerness of Home. Chicago: University of Chicago Press.