Laurel V. McLaughlin recently interviewed Aeron Bergman and Alejandra Salinas for BOMB Magazine on their multi-faceted project Consuming Nature which includes publicly sited billboards, documentary audio, installations, programming, and an essay published on MARCH last year.
Laurel V. McLaughlin: In an essay you wrote for MARCH, you pose the question: Can we criticize colonialism without criticizing capitalism? You turn to histories of Spanish colonialism, US patent law, the reach of tech-based philanthropy, food monopolies, and Monsanto in a constellational critique, then shift to the plant amaranth as a potential future for agriculture and a possible ironic and resilient savior (as it is also a weed).
Aeron Bergman and Alejandra Salinas: Among every academic, farmer, and activist we spoke with, the answer was universal: patent-enabled, industrial-monopoly monocropping will not solve the problems that monopoly industrial monocropping causes. In our audio documentary, taro in Hawai’i and amaranth in Mesoamerica are named as examples of how plant diversity has been ingeniously nurtured by humans in a reciprocal relationship beyond private ownership. To ensure world food stability, it is essential to steward the genetic diversity of seeds that can and will adapt to climate change, drought, and disease. Amaranth was outlawed by the Spanish conquerors but has survived because it is a beloved, sacred, and resilient crop. Amaranth serves as a metaphor for the legal violence that was the feature of colonialism and which continues under neocolonialism. Amaranth also serves as an example of the potential future for humanity in which native plants and agricultural knowledge is valued, considered, and reclaimed in parallel to science. In other words, it is unscientific and racist to disregard Indigenous knowledge. The innovation of the “free market” cannot and will not support genetic diversity, but making conditions favorable to human-scale farming will. Genetic diversity of seeds is supported by human-scale farming, at local levels and world-wide, by embracing Indigenous values, anti-racist approaches, ancient agriculture methods, and adaptive seeds.
Generally speaking, working collaboratively, across specialties, is a very healthy way of working. We have been developing Consuming Nature with important artist-run and public-engaged initiatives such as The Luminary and KNOW/HOW in St. Louis, which has a history of working in the intersections between art and politics, and with OEI’s “headlines” project in Stockholm, a space dedicated to the crossover between publishing as an artistic practice and public exhibition.
The full interview is available on BOMB Magazine.