1st Edition

Artists and the Practice of Agriculture Politics and Aesthetics of Food Sovereignty in Art since 1960

By Silvia Bottinelli Copyright 2023
    284 Pages 33 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

    Artists and the Practice of Agriculture maps out examples of artistic practices that engage with the aesthetics and politics of gathering food, growing edible and medicinal plants, and interacting with non-human collaborators. In the hands of contemporary artists, farming and foraging become forms of visual and material language that convey personal and political meanings.

    This book provides a critical analysis of artistic practices that model alternative food systems. It presents rich academic insights as well as 16 conversations with practicing artists. The volume addresses pressing issues, such as the interconnectedness of human and other-than-human beings, the weight of industrial agriculture, the legacy of colonialism, and the promise of place-based and embodied pedagogies. Through participatory projects, the artists discussed here reflect on the links between past histories, present challenges, and future solutions for the food sovereignty of local and networked communities.

    The book is an easy-to-navigate resource for readers interested in food studies, visual and material cultures, contemporary art, ecocriticism, and the environmental humanities.

    Framing the field: An Introduction

    The Matter of Artists and the Practice of Agriculture

    The Visual and Material Language of Agriculture as Art: The Example of Hunger by Ghada Amer

    Contributions, Scope, and Disciplinary Perspective of This Book

    Chapters’ Overview, Author Positionality, and Writing Process


    Section I

    Chapter 1: Experiences of Human and Other-Than-Human Interconnection through Agriculture in Contemporary Art.

    Preparing the Terrain: Historical Contexts and Theoretical Lens

    Becoming Plant: Giuseppe Penone

    Energy Flows and Non-Hierarchical Interactions. Bonnie Ora Sherk

    The Healing and Spiritual Power of Agriculture: Joseph Beuys

    Agricultural Knowledges and Economies: Global Tools and Gianfranco Baruchello.

    Fluidity against Binaries: Fritz Haeg

    Beyond Utopia: Adaptation and Community for Kamin Lertchaiprasert and Rirkrit Tiravanija, and Artist as Family

    Place-Based Knowledges and Interconnectedness in Contemporary Indigenous Art: Jolene Rickard and Elizabeth James-Perry

    Conversation with Bonnie Ora Sherk

    Conversation with Fritz Haeg

    Conversation with Artist as Family (Meg Ulman and Patrick Jones)

    Conversation with Jolene Rickard

    Section II

    Chapter 2: Confronting Technology in the Field: Reimagining Agriculture for Food Sovereignty and Environmental Remediation.

    Dialectics, Tautology, and Paradox: Agnes Denes

    DIY Technology and the Power of Agribusiness: Critical Art Ensemble

    Biopolitics, Biopiracy, and Sexuality: Ines Doujak

    The Agency of Plants: Li Shan, Natalie Doonan, and Maria Thereza Alves

    Climate Change Adaptation, Historical Technologies, and Gardens: The Harrisons and Nida Sinnokrot

    Conversation with Maria Thereza Alves

    Conversation with Natalie Doonan

    Conversation with Nida Sinnokrot

    Section III

    Chapter 3: Colonial Legacies in Agriculture and Art: Labor, Memory, and Healing

    Extraction, Exploitation, and Colonial Trades

    Honoring Diversity through Plants and Food in Australia: Lauren Berkowitz

    Colonial Histories and Today’s African Diasporas: Binta Diaw

    Connecting Cuba, China, West Africa and North America: Edible and Medicinal Plants in María Magdalena Campos-Pons’s Practice

    Food Security and Artistic Cross-Pollination at Yinka Shonibare’s Ecology Green Farm in Nigeria

    Abolition, Imagination, and Community Gardening in the USA: jackie sumell and Seitu Jones

    The Politics of Urban Agriculture in Hong Kong

    Conversation with Lauren Berkowitz

    Conversation with María Magdalena Campos-Pons

    Conversation with jackie sumell

    Conversation with Seitu Jones

    Section IV

    Chapter 4: Embodied Pedagogies and Knowledges Exchange through Art Farming. Health, Nutrition, and Sense of Place

    Awareness and Social Equity through Food-based Pedagogy: A Theoretical Framework.

    Hydroponic Systems and Community Care in Response to the AIDS Crisis: Haha

    Cycles of Learning: Sensorial and Spiritual Resilience in Tattfoo Tan’s Experience

    Floating Ecosystems: Mary Mattingly

    Civic Fruit and Public Art: Participation for Fallen Fruit and Lisa Kyung Gross

    Being with Bees: Juan William Chávez’s Creative Pedagogy Against Racist Histories

    Queer Ecologies and Cross-Species Interaction: Eli Brown

    Making with Fungi: Urbonas Studio and Mycelium

    Ever-Changing Traditions: Unlearning and Experimenting for the Scuola delle Agricolture

    Conversation with Haha (Richard House, Wendy Jacob, Laurie Palmer, John Ploof)

    Conversation with Tattfoo Tan

    Conversation with Lisa Kyung Gross

    Conversation with Juan William Chávez

    Conversation with Eli Brown


    Silvia Bottinelli (PhD University of Pisa) is Senior Lecturer and Chair of the Visual and Material Studies Department, School of the Museum of Fine Arts at Tufts University. Dr. Bottinelli's scholarship focuses on contemporary food-based art as well as twentieth and twenty-first-century Italian art. With Margherita d’Ayala Valva, she co-edited the volume The Taste of Art (2017) and a special issue of Public Art Dialogue on "Food and Activism in Contemporary Art" (2018). Dr. Bottinelli also co-edited Lead in Modern and Contemporary Art with Sharon Hecker (2021), and single-authored the book Double-Edged Comforts: Domestic Life in Modern Italian Art and Visual Culture (2021). Dr. Bottinelli’s research has been widely published in edited volumes and scholarly journals such as Art Journal, Modernism/modernity, Public Art Dialogues, Food Studies, Palinsesti, Predella, and Ricerche di Storia dell’Arte. Her scholarship was supported by grants of the Italian Art Society, the Center for Italian Modern Art, the American Philosophical Society, and the Tufts Tisch College Faculty Fellowship, among others. Dr. Bottinelli received an International Award for Excellence from the Food Studies Research Network.

    "Climate action alarm bells have been ringing for decades and while some people are only now hearing the call, countless artists have been engaged in environmental arts for decades. Through this book, Bottinelli brings critical awareness to a group of artists who have been working through the lens of agriculture. With perceptive essays and a collection of in-depth artist interviews, Bottinelli takes a serious look at how the arts can contribute to understanding and adapting to the challenges our food systems face in a rapidly changing global environment."

    -Cameron Cartiere, Professor of Public Art and Social Practice, Emily Carr University of Art and Design