Woman Crush Wednesday: Barbara Ciurej & Lindsay Lochman
Interview by Federica Belli.
How did you come to the idea of rebuilding landscape pictures with food?
While raising children, we constantly sought a balance between the home cooking we grew up with, and the time-saving, but heavily processed foods that increasingly dominate American’s diets. Choosing between convenience and manufactured “fun” food often forces a trade-off with nutrition.
After our photographic project about the emotional role of food and nourishment, we began to explore the world of industrially produced food. As we experimented, we found that heavily processed foods don’t deteriorate, making them excellent building materials, albeit alarming food choices.
What was the initial plan that led to this visual solution?
For our photographic inspiration, we turn to history, mythology and contemporary culture to guide our research.In the U.S. today, impoverished areas are often described as “food deserts,” where fresh produce and healthful whole foods are not available because of lack of investment. We began to consider historical trends that led to this situation. As corporate powers continue to heavily market unhealthy foods, we see them as embracing the same 19thcentury notion of Manifest Destiny which justified commercial expansion. 150 years later, the processed food industry is pushing us into uncharted territory riddled with consequences for our health and environment.
For our landscapes, we reference the work of photographer, Carleton Watkins’ (1829-1916). His sublime views framed the American West as a land of endless possibilities and significantly influenced the creation of the first national parks. However, many of Watkin’s photographs were commissioned by the corporate interest of his day: the railroad, mining, lumber and milling companies. His commissions served as documentation of and advertisement for the American West. For us, his work represents the ongoing tensions between preservation and profits.
We identified and depicted 10 industrial food groups — heavily processed, popular and addictive fare comprised primarily of fat, sugar and salt in addition to addressing monoculture, food dyes and artificial additives.
Some of these landscapes look grandiose and almost inviting. How did you choose the foods and materials to use?
The food itself inspired the tone and construction of our photographs. Enormous corporate resources go into marketing research: the colors, shapes and smells of food and packaging are all designed to appeal to consumers. In our cautionary tale, we also wanted to seduce the viewer, bringing them close to the image to inspect and, upon seeing what the landscapes are made of, begin to question the role of agribusiness and industrial food systems.
These pictures inevitably take a political stance. What is your main concern about the food industry nowadays?
Simply, we want to highlight our broken relationship with nature.
We have learned that the earth is not a cornucopia of resources to be exploited, but is a network of systems in balance and harmony. We are living with the effects of the exploitive practices of the past and we should learn from our mistakes. If we are part of nature, we are what we eat. If we destroy nature, we will destroy ourselves. Although so much is delicious and enticing, there are consequences to our choices.
Describe your creative process in one word.
If you could teach a one-hour class on anything, what would it be?
Jell-O from the Future.
We continue to work on ideas about food, currently conducting workshops positing a future world made out of Jell-O, an adaptable food product that parallels the history of American food processing and marketing. We’re hoping participants will begin to think more imaginatively and positively about how we mold the future of our planet.
What is the last book you read or film you saw that inspired you?
Lindsay: “Robot-Proof, Higher Education in the Age of Artificial Intelligence” by Joseph E Aoun and Blind Spotby Teju Cole.
Barbara: “Drawdown: The Most Comprehensive Plan Ever Proposed to Reverse Global Warming” by Paul Hawken.
What is the most played song in your music library?
Lindsay: Tabla Beat Science - Satellite (Show Me the Worth of the World).
Barbara: Bob Marley – Everything’s Gonna Be Alright.
How do you take your coffee?
Lindsay: Shaken, not stirred.
Barbara: Straight up.
To see more of Barbara and Lindsay’s work, visit their website here