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Earth Institute artist in residence Deirdre O'Mahony hosts Eat Food Policy feast

Published: Thursday, 02 February, 2023


All images in this news item: Ros Kavanagh (2023)

Deirdre O’Mahony was the Earth Institute artist in residence for 2021-2022 in collaboration with Dun Laoghaire Rathdown County Council and UCD’s Parity Studios. Deirdre is a visual artist whose practice is informed by a deep interest in rural sustainability, farming, food security and rural/urban relationships. For more than two decades she has investigated the political ecology of rural places through public engagement, archival and moving image installation, critical writing and cultural production. 

Sustainment Experiments is her current long-term public art project which considers what actions can be taken concerning farming, food consumption and the current ecological and climate crises. It comprises various elements including research, exhibitions and ‘generative feasts’. Eat Food Policy was the title of the most recent feast and it took place on 25 January in City Assembly House in Dublin. An earlier feast was held in the Butler Gallery in Kilkenny on the subject of soil and climate change. 

(L-R) Kate Strain (curator), Bridget O’Gorman (Fool/Other), Deirdre O’Mahony (artist), Etaoin Holahan (Bean an Tí), Clare Anne O’Keefe (cook).

Photo by Ros Kavanagh, 2023.

The meals are modelled on an eighteenth-century feast hosted by a French scientist, Antoine Augustin Parmentier, who helped transform public health by changing attitudes towards the potato, then believed to be unfit for human consumption. Eat Food Policy responded to the urgent need for a multidisciplinary approach to food production, farming, and the climate crisis. The event brought together twenty-four farmers, food producers, scientists, politicians, and policymakers to share first-hand experiences of the challenges of farming today. 

Eat Food Policy was created in collaboration with cook Clare-Anne O'Keefe. Deirdre and Clare-Anne devised a menu for Dublin focussing on food policies, health and climate change.  Following Parmentier's example, all courses of the Dublin feast used the potato as a one of the ingredients. The menu included dishes such as  Territorial Waters Mille Feuille and some came in the form of ‘pills', for instance the Cornstown House Emmer pill with potato cocktail and the sea buckthorn pill with food waste pressed cocktail. Courses were introduced by a Bean an Ti and the Artist, and the event also featured the Fool. They encouraged participants to think beyond their habitual positions and to discuss what sustainable food production might mean in the future. 

The meal was served on ceramic tableware designed and made by the artist with visual references to root systems, soil, water and plant life. Deirdre also made porcelain cups cast from potatoes, a familiar crop with immense cultural value. Monochromatic painted images of agrarian details from French monuments to Parmentier were hung on the walls.

The dinner conversation at both events was recorded and these recordings will be transcribed and relayed to audiences at public events for additional comment and feedback in early 2023. Deirdre will use them as source material for a new moving image artwork called The Quickening that reflects the multiple perspectives encountered during feasts and other events. 

The Eat Food Policy feast was supported by Kunstverein Aughrim and the Irish Museum of Modern Art in collaboration with City Assembly House and the Irish Georgian Society