Anne-Marie is identifying and creating routes for foraging around the Loughborough University campus. I was invited by Paul Conneally, Cultural Forager, who also worked on the commissions at Snibston. Paul and Anne-Marie had invited other artists, lecturers and students to take a walk along the first Fruit Route, sample some foraged fruit juices and discuss the ideas of foraging and art. As I have been involved in bits of foraging recently, with the walking projects as well as from visiting the River Nene (see River Foraging post and The grammar of Nature - gift or product?), I thought I should get involved.
Anne-Marie has occupied a beautiful shed on the campus, surrounded by plants and boxes of foraged apples. A magnificent tangle of tubes hang from the ceiling, from which you can sample delicious fruit juices.
Discussions took on very personal reflections on the idea of foraging, food and our relationship to natural things, as well as a really interesting conversation about what foraging actually is and how it could be perceived as an art practice.
It seems to me that all artists are foragers in a sense. We go out into the world, find things around us, take those impressions and make something of them. These foraged ideas we can then share with the world. Anne-Marie's project emphasises the idea of sharing, that the food and drink she is making is free and therefore should be given away. Gillian Whitely from the School of Arts, who has been interested in foraging for many years and is well read on the subject, spoke about projects a few decades ago that aimed to subvert the capitalist system by giving away food rather than selling it.
Artist Bob Levene talked about how foraging changes the way you look at the landscape. Your focus becomes really acute, it is almost an obsession, you see things that non-foragers miss. I have experienced this, on occasions out walking I have slipped into a foraging mode and find that as I am walking along I'm looking sideways all the time, my eyes scanning the hedgerows and trying to glimpse through gaps to the fields beyond.
Being an artist can also mean that you focus on things that other people might not notice. But in doing so, are there other things you might miss? Often my practice seeks the individual, the small, the unnoticed, but there are also moments when you need to take in the wider view.