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SUGAR, SPICE & SALT

Feast is developing a trilogy of editions exploring the commodities of Sugar, Spice and Salt to launch in June 2019. As part of this series Feast has received Arts Council England Funding to commission new works by Ellie Doney, Jasleen Kaur and Fairland Collective. The artists’ share an interest in food either as a medium, a means of engaging communities or a way to explore diverse histories. Produced in partnership with Lion Salt Works Cheshire, Touchstones Rochdale, MMU Special Collections and Museumand, the series of works will bring together an interdisciplinary mix of practitioners and diverse contexts to creatively respond to the individual themes of Sugar, Spice and Salt. Working with the commissioned artists, Feast will be inviting contributions for the next three editions.

FEAST: Sugar

In the fields of the plains of Tripoli can be found in abundance a honey reed which they call Zuchra; the people are accustomed to suck enthusiastically on these reeds, delighting themselves with their beneficial juices, and seem unable to sate themselves with this pleasure in spite of their sweetness.
(Albert van Aachen’s collected accounts of the First Crusade 1096-99 quoted in Salzman, L.F. English Trade in the middle Ages Oxford: Clarendon Press 1931.)

The food of Europe was still regional. The products of other climates were still rarities, verging on luxury, except perhaps for sugar, the most important foodstuff imported from the tropics and the one whose sweetness has created more human bitterness than any other.
(Eric Hobsbawn – The Age of Revolution 1789-1848 p.31.)

 
Sugar permeates our daily life - from a visible spoonful in coffee or tea to the hidden grams in a loaf of bread. Each intake of sugar brings with it a boost of energy for the body and a subsequent low, leaving us wanting more. In the western world we are addicted to the sweet substance of sugar, yet the complex colonial history of this addiction and the global political economy of its industrial production often fail to register, drowned out by a public discourse focused on obesity and healthy diets. Rather than reiterate what has become a familiar rhetoric of sugars negative health effects, Feast: Sugar intends to explore sugar as an active material intertwined with associations of power from a multiplicity of dimensions – chemical and biological, agricultural and economical, cultural and political –  touching on, as Hobsbawn comments a history of bitterness that has been fed by our insatiable appetite for sweetness.

As part of this exploration Feast has commissioned artist and materials specialist Ellie Doney to develop a new series of works. Considering the active properties of sugar, a substance that is a means of power, energy and force – biochemically, economically and historically – Ellie will deliver three public workshops producing and refining raw sugar and exploring the manifold possibilities of its resulting forms. Collaborating with The National Caribbean Heritage Museum- Museumand over the delivery of the workshops, Ellie’s playful manipulation of sugar in its different states of refinement will be informed by an ongoing discussion of its complex colonial history and contemporary legacy.

The workshops will further inform Feast: Sugar, an edition of the journal co-edited with Ellie, which brings together diverse content acknowledging sugar’s complex history whilst exploring the material’s active properties and seemingly endless manifestations. Alongside Ellie's work Feast: Sugar will feature a variety of content that compliments and expands on her exploration of sugar and power, including recipes recorded by Museumand from contemporary British Caribbean communities, articles on sugar production, sugar in literature, as well as interviews with individuals involved in the contemporary sugar industry – from farmers to biochemists to chefs.