Titled ‘Grounding’, Rafael Pérez Evans’s installation urges people to reconnect to their roots
Yesterday, 29 tonnes of carrots were dumped from a truck onto the Goldsmiths University campus. Today, a picture of the aftermath has been causing a stir on social media, along with speculation about its meaning: is it a retaliation against the government’s ‘carrot and stick’ approach to coronavirus? Some kind of desperate plea for better eyesight? As the university itself revealed, though, the dumping of the carrots is actually part of its MFA degree show.
Titled “Grounding”, the artwork by Rafael Pérez Evans isn’t about eyesight or coronavirus, it turns out. Instead, it takes inspiration from a form of protest performed by farmers in Spain and France, called “dumping”. For Pérez Evans, who was born in the countryside of southern Spain, this act is something of a recurring theme. “For the Goldsmiths show, I had the opportunity to really dive right into this,” he tells Dazed, “and to ‘dump’ myself.”
Instead of an act of protest though, Pérez Evans’s “Grounding” is a form of, well, grounding, “a sort of electric reconnection to the soil, and to earth”. This, the artist explains, can be as simple as placing your bare feet in the earth – a technique he uses to combat the dissociation he feels now, living in the middle of a city – but the dumping of the carrots is an attempt to expand on the concept and create a “monumental” version that takes in the whole of the Goldsmiths building.
Pérez Evans also hopes it will foster a debate about the earth our food ultimately comes from, and the fact it often goes unacknowledged, which he refers to as “a sort of rural blindness, and food blindness, and soil blindness”. The idea isn’t to portray this as a “rural, cutesy, pastoral thing”, he continues, but to start conversations about our relationships with the city, the rural, farmers, and their produce.
The artwork has undeniably succeeded in starting conversations, though not all of them supportive. On social media, many have claimed that the artwork is wasteful, and questioned whether the vegetables would be better off going to those that are struggling to put food on the table.
Responding to these allegations, Pérez Evans explains that all of the carrots have already been deemed “not fit for human consumption” and “once the show has finished next week, all the carrots will be collected and taken to farms to be used for animal feed”. Addressing the criticism more broadly, he adds that it’s all “part of the exercise”, comparing it to the conversation started by French and Spanish farmers when they dump crops.
“My family in Spain, they’re farmers,” he explains. “I’m one of the people that abandoned that. As a queer person I left because I always though that freedom would be outside.” However, he adds: “I’m kind of now questioning, what is it that I lost by leaving a rural land and becoming a cosmopolitan person, and what is lost in the journey.”
“Grounding” is part of an ongoing attempt to start a conversation about integrating queer culture with a return to this way of life. “I’m trying to think of a new queer existence, think about it through ecology and through reconnecting to the basics of life, like foods and the production of them, family, and community, and things outside of the city,” says Pérez Evans.
“What happens if I, now, being a kind of queer cosmopolitan, start going back to that and rescue forms of living and exchanging, and affectivities from that place?”