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  • alisatanakaking

A Thing

Dear Jim,

I did a thing.

I say 'thing' because I haven't quite worked out exactly what it is yet.

It is a strange culmination of many years work, in fact, if I look back carefully, I see traces and leads from the work I was making when I first contacted you, so many years ago.

I suppose I am looking for ways to tell stories that lead to other stories.

I'm looking for ways to start difficult conversations.

To talk about things we need to talk about.

So instead of interviewing people, or researching in an academic sense looking for answers, I laid a table.

I've been interested in the philosophy of Kaiseki Ryori, a Japanese multi-course style of preparing a meal that is designed to showcase local and seasonal produce. It has some fairly fundamental structural features, and while there are variations on this, ultimately the menu is designed to take the participants on a food journey.

So, with this in mind, I set about the task of foraging and designing a menu around predominantly local ingredients.

The land in summer here is abundant with produce, you just have to know what to look for.

There are mushrooms a plenty, and some are edible, but I wasn't confident in identifying and preparing them for fellow residents here who kindly volunteered to be my 'lab rats.'

Mushrooms aside, I managed to find and use the following:

Wild chive and chive flowers


Crow berries

Cloud berries


Meadow Sweet


Freshly caught salmon (not caught by me)

The menu was designed to naturally lead into conversation and promote discussion, in this instance, the question was "why are we here?"

Why have we chosen to throw ourselves into the wilderness, at the mercy of the unforgiving landscape of the far north.

There is something intimate, beautiful, and ephemeral about the conversation that took place, that really belongs to the people who were present. It seems bizarre and staged to write it all down.

But what I will share is this, conversation seemed to flow off the food, and the structure of the meal gave shape to the discussion.

Laughter, analysis, contemplation.

One of the artists responded:

"I just have to say, I feel a lot of love here"

Now I never set out to create a space of love - which sounds harsh - but it hadn't really occurred to me.

I had aimed to create a space that felt safe enough to induce conversation that flowed naturally and freely.

Perhaps that is what people need to feel safe, love.

Food is also often a sign of love, so maybe sub-consciously I was creating this - an offering of food, an invitation:

come into this safe space

enjoy food and company

nothing can hurt you here

I love you

I will leave you with this, a piece of writing that I jotted down whilst thinking about the conversations that were shared at our table:

There are a multitude of reasons why we escape to the big open wild; whether we are overwhelmed, or curious, seek silence, or healing, have had our hearts broken, or lost someone, or lost ourselves, or feel like we've failed, or fallen, or need to feel strong, or reckless, or we feel empty, or sad, or frightened, or alone - we launch ourselves into the vast wilderness, run head first into the rough open ocean, in the hope that by returning to the earth and its elements, we will somehow be made whole again.

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