Come and get: CLOSER TO THE VEG
Fitzroy Park Allotments
23 July – 7 August
After a few wrong turns climbing the hill from Highgate Village, I was welcomed into Fitzroy allotments by curators, Sasha Galitzine and Olga Mackenzie. Closer to the Veg is their second collaboration, and incorporates the work of 16 artists/ art collectives. The artists’ work is immersed into the eclectic landscape of the allotments, echoing the eccentricities of this environment. The duo curate group projects in site specific locations, using the original purpose of the area to focus the theme of each show. They encourage group discussions and working relationships between participants. They seek to expand the boundaries of contemporary art and viewers’ expectations of it, endeavouring to make it more relevant and accessible to the wider public.
Artists participating in Closer to the Veg are: Matt Ager, Pavel Braila, Bompas & Parr, Ben Cain, Sol Calero, Lucy Evetts, Dmitri Galitzine, Alexander Glass, Pil & Galia Kollectiv, Zoe Marden, Jonathan McCree, Andrew Mealor, Paloma Proudfoot, Amanda Simon, Hermione Spriggs and Jonathan Trayte. As well as inviting the artists, Galitzine and Mackenzie have developed a close engagement with thirty plot holders, who have welcomed this creative intervention in their closely guarded space. British allotments are precious to the people who tend them, community relations and ideals have to be approached with sensitivity. These are personal havens.
Mick Rand, author of ‘Close to the Veg,’ which inspired the title and key elements of the show, is one of the plot holders at Fitzroy Park allotments. He has been instrumental to the development of the project and a key player during the running of it. When you make your way through the maze of artworks, it is likely you will find Mick tending his allotment.
Allotment holders have a tradition of using found objects to make the things they need. This practice leads to unique arrangements, each like an installation in its own right. One of the triumphs of Closer to the Veg is how well the exhibition integrates with the existing environment. Visitors to Closer to the Veg during this 2 week run, use a treasure map-like guide to find the artworks, many of which would not be out of place here all year round. Although I was fortunate to be given a guided tour by Sasha, it was after, when I wound my way back through the trail, that I felt at one with the show. I could have stayed there for hours, exploring.
The themes of Closer to the Veg range from sustainability to destruction, loneliness and communality, labour and leisure, hunting, gathering and survival. The public is invited to explore the allotment works and participate in related activities.
During the opening, performances included the ritual planting of the shiniest berry in the world, where the audience watched as a rare berry was brought through the allotments in a golden wheel barrow to be planted; some held flares, while others were asked to touch an erogenous zone of the person to their left.
Other highlights for me were: the asparagus dance, playing on a loop inside a green house, with the asparagus costumes camouflaged amidst the flora inside; and the garden brooms, propped in a shed wistfully considering themselves still trees.
The next event, on Thursday the 4 of August, Galitzine and Mackenzie will hold allotment speed-dating;
‘Pick me I’m Juicy!’