Project for one-year residency at Jan van Eyck Academie


Agriculture is among the human activities with the highest impact on the planet. Our landscapes and environment have been drastically modified to produce food for humanity at the sacrifice of thousands of other species who suffer from pesticides and imbalances caused by monocultures’ focus on solely the human. In the name of efficiency and quantity, rivers, oceans and forests have been poisoned, hyper-simplifying nature to focus on 5 plants that make up for 70% of modern human’s intake: corn, wheat, soybean among them. That way, we leave almost 25,000 edible plants out of our plates, thus substituting complex environments such as forests for single-crop deserts. The simplification processes occur once food is seen as a commodity and loses ground as a mediator between humans and land, a relationship Restauration is willing to address.

Our present project is a translation into Van Eyck of project Restauro – Environmental Sculpture, first commissioned for the 32nd Bienal de São Paulo in 2016. In a country dominated by monoculture, it short-circuited our eating habits and its impact on environment and landscape, reimagining the relationship between land art and land use. Operating as the exhibition’s restaurant, having served more than 14,000 meals over 3 months, the project prioritized plant-based agroforestry’s produce, a form of regenerative agriculture. The restaurant was activated as an artistic project for the first time in the history of the Bienal. Restauro’s key operation as a mediator between the Bienal and the forest reverses Robert Smithson’s site/non-site. It is the economy generated at the restaurant that irradiates and irrigates the forest, supporting more complex environments through our eating habits. Restauro connected these apparently remote places and logics, beyond the urban/rural and modern/non-modern binary conceptions, re-signifying multispecies bodies and ecological relationships through our digestive systems.

The project iterated to Serpentine Galleries in London in 2017, where we worked with local farmers and created ‘farm-specific’ recipes. At Van Eyck Academie, Restauration intends to work with local farmers as well. The new addition would be to create a discursive branch in the form of a book that contains interviews, photos, recipes and drawings that is done simultaneously while running the restaurant. Each chapter would consist in a homage to each of the farmers we will work with, which we imagine would be around 6 or 7 throughout the year. The chapters would be launched independently as we go, every 90 days, and end in a compilation which makes up for the book as we complete the residency.
Having worked together in all theses projects, Joelson Bugila (artist-graphic designer) and Jorge Menna Barreto (artist-scholar), the duo plans on collaborating to make food for eating and for thought, bringing forward the idea that our digestive systems may operate as sculpting tools, as what we eat shapes the landscape where we live, a process we call environmental sculpture. Our central idea is then to turn the appetite at Van Eyck’s into fuel to ignite an ongoing regenerative process, in which as we eat we restore not only our bodies, but the environment: Restauration.

Restauration intends to take advantage of three of the facilities offered by Van Eyck: The Food Lab, The Printing and Publishing Lab and the Lab for Nature Research. As a duo, during the week we will be both running the restaurant and working on the publication. We will leave the weekends to go visit farmers, take pictures, interview, draw, record the soundscapes and think about translating our thoughts and projects into a book, understood as non-site of the farms we work will work with. Our project is thus based on a systemic way of thinking, in which multiple locations and mediums interweave to make a complex body of work, opposing the monoculture of the mind (Vanda Shiva). Land artist Robert Smithson’s ideas on site/non-site are reimagined, considering ways of translating farms into recipes and food into text, thickening the relationship to what we eat as part of a political, social and environmental web.

As an environmental statement, we both have the knowledge and experience to create a menu that is plant-based and pays a homage to the diversity of the plant kingdom. We also have experience with publications, which are here thought as more than a documentation of the process. It intends to think of the page as a cultivation ground for new ideas, recipes, graphic experiments and food for thought. The publication is thus not submissive to the café-restaurant, but creates an entangled relationship in which they are interdependent. More than a book, it will also be a map of the regenerative farming processes we find along the research. This systemic way of thinking finds support in the Lab for Nature Research, as nature is not seen as something to be represented in a hierarchical relationship, but lived, tasted and experienced in a non-anthropocentrical manner. Food is then seen as a privileged mediator in these relations, as it brings information into our cells which was cultivated in the complex environments where it was grown. Food and territory are reimagined and lend themselves to more interesting narratives that gain ground in our book. Our intestines are able to read this complexity, as our bodies become more aligned with the vitality of food that is grown on lands that also cultivate diversity and is imprinted by it. It is this cellular mediation that informs our body on relationships of belonging, grounding, environmental responsibility that underlie our intention to build a way of thinking like forests, rather than monocultures.