As part of the Sustainable Stories run by TAPP Water Malta I am introducing you to "You are what you buy" in Malta.
- List down three items that feature in your typical grocery shopping list.
- And now, list down three items that are in your dream shopping list.
- How do you select your products while shopping for daily needs?
- Do you ever map the journey of how a product reaches your household?
- Who was involved in its production, and what are the ingredients?
- What are the materials of the packaging?
- Where will it go once consumed?
- What type of respect is present or absent in this process?
This is precisely how the project You Are What You Buy (YAWYB) started, the brainchild of socially engaged artist and arts educator Kristina Borg. Through research and creative practice, YAWYB provokes and reacts to current issues on production, shopping and consumption, offering an alternative artistic and socio-economic experience.
Image Credit: You Are What You Buy – by Miss K, 2017, performance art.
Photo by Matthew Calleja
To date, the project has created two editions and a third edition is ongoing.
The first edition, entitled YAWYB by Miss K, goes back to 2016-2017. This included a transdisciplinary collaboration whereby research and a performance art piece were set in a supermarket in Malta, highlighting our shopping patterns as affected by economic mechanisms.
This edition was a result of a collaboration involving clients and employees
of the supermarket, researchers, a socially engaged artist, a cultural anthropologist, a dramaturg and a group of performers. Extracting a number of shopping patterns led to the creation of a pop-up, interactive, provoking week-long performance piece at the supermarket itself.
Image Credit: You Are What You Buy – by Miss K, 2017, performance art. Photo by Matthew Calleja
The second edition in 2020 evolved organically as influenced by the Covid-19 pandemic, earmarked as A Remote ReVisit. What might have been considered an absurd prediction or an extreme interpretation in 2017, actually became a reality in 2020, such as shopping with a face mask or in one’s bubble, or the hesitancy to touch certain products.
Image Credits: You Are What You Buy – A Remote ReVisit, 2020, digital and interactive publication available for free download here
For this reason, the second edition – focusing mainly on research – looked at the impact of the pandemic on our production, shopping and consumption habits. The research, which was presented in a digital, interactive and playful publication, has also inspired a set of creative interpretations including a series of co-created video works, a set of illustrations and poems, including one short story. Some of the main thematic outcomes that emerged include: collective efforts, exchange of assets, seasonality, going local, and growing one’s
At that point it felt natural to celebrate society’s mindfulness of such themes. And so, YAWYB evolved into a third ongoing edition, earmarked as Reap What You Sow, and is supported by Arts Council Malta. This edition acts as a pilot to research, create and present an alternative artistic-educational and socio-economic hands-on experience, by focusing on local food community economies.
Image Credits: You Are What You Buy – Reap What You Sow, 2022, Year 6 students from St Albert the Great College, Valletta, sowing carrot seeds at Biome Munch fields in Burmarrad. Photo by Elisa von Brockdorff
It includes a collaboration with upper primary students and representatives of the EkoSkola Committee from St Albert the Great College, Valletta, under the coordination of Carlo Fenech. Inspired by the Arte Útil concept, this edition draws on artistic and design thinking to imagine and create social change, while acknowledging and acting on the ongoing interdependence of all life forms, human and more-than-human.
Following the vision of Community Economies, founded by J. K. Gibson-Graham, the project does not aim to reinvent the wheel, but to find gaps, support and scale up what already exists locally, and thus help to reframe the system. It is for this reason that the project is also collaborating with farmers from Biome Munch, fairness activists and makers from ethico.mt, and other creatives, under the artistic direction of Kristina Borg.
Image Credits: You Are What You Buy – Reap What You Sow, 2022, Year 6 students from St Albert the Great College, Valletta, harvesting radish at Biome Munch fields in Burmarrad. Photo by Elisa von Brockdorff
The students and their families are introduced to the Farm to Fork Strategy, to collectively create a healthy savoury snack – seasonal root veg chips dried on a solar dehydrator and seasoned with herbs. The students are involved in the production stage by sowing and harvesting crops in an organic and regenerative way, in the processing stage by dehydrating the veg and the herbs, to eventually move on to the storage and distribution stage,
including branding design and creative writing to promote their product.
Ultimately, YAWYB aims to reframe a challenge into an opportunity for all.
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