FOOD OF WAR COLLECTIVE
CLOUDED LANDS, CHERNOBYL, 30 YEARS LATER
Conflicts, social struggles and the legitimate and historical claim for the right to
have land are the core of this thought-provoking committed and bold artistic project. Access to food, exploitation of resources, the manufacturing of food in the hands of the big companies that not only impose hard working conditions on their workers, but also the modification of traditional eating habits, led the Colombian artist Omar Castañeda to create an artistic collective that could warn society about the radical changes that the rural world is increasing undergoing.
Food of War is a multidisciplinary Art Collective dedicated to explore the relationship between food and war through art. The collective formed by artists Omar Castañeda, Hernan Barros, Quintina Valero, Simone Mattar, Zinahida Lihacheva and Carolina Muñoz has developed its projects in very different parts of the world, such as the Middle East, Brasil, Italy, Germany and the Ukraine.
The proposal that the collective has put forward on this occasion looks back into the consequences of the radioactive spill that took place in the nuclear power station in Chernobyl (Ukraine) in 1986. The Chernobyl disaster occurred during the Cold War and it alarmed the whole Europe about what was safe to eat and drink. Clouded Lands, 30 years Chernobyl started in Kiev (Ukraine) in April 2016 and has travelled since to Germany, Italy, Spain, and the UK.
The artistic work carried out by this collective uses different strategies to promote social reflection: social initiatives, documentaries, performances, objects made out of unusual products to catch people’s attention, photography, painting and cinema. Each member was free to approach each topic from a different perspective, with the tools of the discipline he or she works with. When we blended the vision of a photographer, a visual artists, a chef, an architect (interested in relating food to other disciplines), an aspiring writer (working on visual effects), a singer, and a designer , we could not imagine where this would take us. Far from going across the same itinerary in different vehicles, we ended up exploring differents paths together.
Some of us follow a more social line of work and prefer to get first hand experience with the working environment. As a result, we travelled to Ukraine where we spoke with people who were directly involved in the tragedy, such a some Liquidators (referring to those who carried out risky tasks during and after the Chernobyl disaster) who are still alive. This way of working contrasts with the way of other artists. Those processes influence and strengten each other, covering the whole spectrum, from the scientific approach to one of direct contact with the inhabitants of the affected areas in Ukraine.
Quintina Valero’s series of photographs “Life after Chernobyl” portrays life from Narodichi region, 50km from the nuclear plant and one of the areas worst hit by radiation. Families were advised not to eat produce from their land but poverty had left them with not option but to return to farming.
Omar Castañeda and Hernan Barros’s installations (The Sovietic Roullet and I.N.E.S grade 7) creates a dialogue of the two biggest nuclear catastrophes, Fukushima and Chernobyl. Fishes from the contaminated area and specimens that are part of the daily diet of people who are still living near the affected area are displayed at the exhibition. Apples are frequently present in Omar’s work. Agricultural produce was notoriusly affected in Chernobyl. In “The Sovietic Roullet” 50 black apples are laid for the taking but the viewers ignore which ones are made of plastic and which ones from sweet decadent chocolate. Radiation is an invisible enemy.
Simone Mattar’s Black Cloud, a 6 mtrs installation remind us the black radioactive cloud that moved to Belarus because of the strong winds. How can something so pure, unreachable, sent to us by mother nature be so destructive?
Zinaida’s Substancia composed by milk, blood and ashes are the main substances in the ancient symbolism.
When this project was conceived we were all clear that the best way to trascend our own vision was to involve other artists in every stage of our trip. We invited local artists from the very beginning, as a way to establish each show more efficiently within a local framework, and the result surpassed our expectations. So far, we have already worked with more than 20 artists from differents countries and there are still more to come. In each of our stages there have been some failed exhibitions but even thoue failures can be considered as fruitful because they have led us to keep on investigating. Although the results of some of these research have never been displayed to the world, they have been relevant to us as a collective.
In Germany we learnt about the superior capacity that mushrooms and tomatoes have to absorb radioactivity when compared to other vegetables. In Ukraine about the belief that vodka counteracts the lethat effects of nuclear pollution, In Belorussia about the black rain that one fell on a village called Gomel condemning it to isolation, but saving the rest of the country with it. There are many considerations about all of these themes and many of them can be seen in our exhibitions.
What happened more than three decades ago affects us all as inhabitants of this planet, regardless of the fact that it took place behing the so-called iron curtain in a communist country. These facts transcend politics, races and religion., they leave our human nature disarmed, they appeal to our sheer survival instinct, to the question that crosses our mind when we look each other in the eye and reflect on our survival. Being aware of how close we were to annihilating our species, of turning Europe into a nuclear desert and, seeing that 30 years after the tragedy disasters like the one in Fukushima still happen makes us unable to stop investigating and formulating questions that are inconvenient but necessary. These are questions for which we have no answers, but that we cannot ignore, we cannot continue without them. Chernobyl was not a Ukrainian or Soviet disaster, it was and it still is, a global alert of such magnitude that we cannot let it be forgotten, buried in time.
Food of War artists are currently working in different projects in Venezuela, Brasil, Spain and UK.