Monday, March 12, 2012

A History of Hunger

A History of Hunger A History of Hunger A History of Hunger Finished

Here a is new-ish project I completed recently called A History of Hunger consisting of one dozen mini-scroll "books" made of a dozen white eggs.  Admittedly, this was a project for school.  Here's a statement about it...sorry if it comes across as a little clinical sounding.

A History of Hunger
Eggshells, Japanese paper, adhesive, egg carton
Edition of 12 unique objects

A History of Hunger is a series of 12 miniature objects inspired by books.  Using the phrase “break in case of emergency” as a starting point and combining creative writing with research and sculptural processes, I used broken, empty eggs to frame an exploration of hunger and famine across time and space.  Through online research, I learned about both contemporary and historical examples of famine and food insecurity such as the Irish potato famine as well as periods of hunger during communist rule in China, WWII and the Great Depression.  Each of the twelve book-objects represents a year when a famine or food shortage existed somewhere in the world, and contains a short poetic response to a condition or situation that I read about.  A guiding idea in the series is that in opening each egg and finding it empty aside from a short piece of text reflecting an experience of hunger or famine, one might learn not only how widespread hunger is, but how people have coped with food shortages, as well as how they come to exist.

This project is in keeping with the guiding principle of our class publication-- playing with time by imagining the present through the lens of the future, and guessing what aspects of our contemporary cultural/societal condition will carry over to become major issues in subsequent decades.  Food security is an issue worldwide that will likely only get worse with increasing climate change.  The series of multiples resists providing a linear narrative or definitive history of hunger, and the inclusion of a multiple marked with the year 2042 alludes to the fact that hunger will likely be a continuous problem in a rapidly growing and warming world.

Many of the material/formal decisions I made in the execution of A History of Hunger grew out of my initial decision to use a carton of broken eggs as a starting point.  While the content of the multiples is historical, the use of a contemporary carton of eggs marked with nutritional information at a recent date stamp root the work in the present.  The multiples play with the scroll-- a historical format that is echoed in word processing applications, web browsers and film credits.  Typing directly onto the narrow scrolls required the use of short words in my poetic responses to each historical example of hunger, making them resemble Haikus and giving them a quiet quality that softens the tragic imagery contained in some of the text.  The long scrolls made out of Japanese Kozo paper were designed to mimic the look of egg yolks and whites pouring out of their shells.  Finally, the fragility of the eggshells fits with the precariousness of food security across time, as well as the increasing instability of our environment.

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