The Burrard Marina Field House provided a majestic backdrop for a two-day jam making workshop (August 1 & 2) that was the brainchild of Australian artist Keg de Souza. The Field House Residency Program (supported by the Vancouver Parks Board) provides studio space for artists in exchange for the development of community-based arts projects; the Burrard Marina space is organized by the Contemporary Art Gallery (CAG).
Keg de Souza is completing a series of three projects at this location. The first two projects are preliminary research for a large-scale exhibition she will have in 2016. Originally trained as an architect, Keg is mindful of space when creating her situation specific projects. Working with narratives of colonialism, displacement, gentrification, migration and influence, she frequently uses food as a metaphor. Her practice is very collaborative – bringing together locals to gain their expertise and insights into her explorations.
The jam making project was her second visit to Vancouver. In 2014, she facilitated an event that was part of a picnic series (London, New York, and Vancouver). The picnic took place in an inflatable tent where participants gathered in a space within a space. Guests were treated to a spread of “typical” Canadian food including Kraft Dinner (reportedly the most common food sold in Canadian grocery stores), maple syrup, and traditional First Nation healing teas. She created the menu by speaking with a cross section of Vancouverites interested in local food including urban gardeners, food justice groups, and farm-to-table restaurateurs. Additionally, she visited a women’s shelter in the Downtown Eastside, UBC Farm, the Museum of Anthropology, and various community centres. During the picnic, diners were asked to share their thoughts on the offerings and Keg mapped these communications onto a picnic blanket. She also noted what participants disagreed with and what they found missing.
The idea for her second project came from walking around the space surrounding the Burrard Field House. Keg noticed an abundance of Himalayan blackberry plants nearby. She wondered what effect the invasive species had on the surrounding area. Did it displace other plants? Contribute to soil erosion? She decided to use the invasive species as a metaphor for colonization. She was particularly interested in exploring displacement at this field house site since it rests on unceded Coast Salish territory. Blackberry preserves as a metaphor for how we preserve culture became the focus of the project, linking cultural histories as a way to discuss privilege, space, and colonialism. For the jam making event, Keg partnered with Indigenous herbalist Lori Snyder and master jam maker Steve Snyder.
Lori began day one by reflecting on her Métis heritage. For Lori, plants are a connection to her ancestry. As we began foraging for blackberries under the Burrard Street Bridge, Lori pointed out plants that grow among us in the city and elaborated on their medicinal and healing properties. As the afternoon progressed, strangers became friends as we swapped stories and heard snippets of neighbouring conversations. In our storytelling, cultures are preserved.
Our individual efforts were pooled and we had a significant haul of blackberries for jam making on day two. Steve Snyder spoke to us about the ingredients, proportions, and techniques involved in preserving fruit. We then began our hands-on jam making workshop and took turns stirring our simmering blackberries and smelling their intoxicating aroma. Concurrently, Keg facilitated a conversation on themes such as preservation, sustenance, and adaptation. Information was mapped on a picnic table cloth summarizing opinions, observations, and connections. This fragmented conversation then served as the labels for our finished product. The information obtained will also contribute to the third project in Keg’s residence. I look forward to seeing her pull together her findings next year.
By Karen Clare, Roundhouse Blog Team. Karen has a passion for reaching out to others in the creative community, learning their stories, and sharing these tales with Roundhouse readers. @khclare