food, sustainability and art projects in Europe

Research-creation: Selfood / Sugar Killer

Developed by artist Thierry Boutonnier, researchers Julie Le Gall, Olivier Hamant, Adrien Baysse-Lainé, teams from the MARGUERITE program, and fifteen middle schools mainly in Vaulx-en-Velin, the research-creation project Selfood / Sugar Killer explores the challenges of sustainable food in the Lyon metropolitan area. 

This research was initiated and is piloted by COAL and LADYSS within the framework of the second edition of our Laboratory of Sustainable Culture, La Table et le Territoire. Thierry Boutonnier was awarded a residency at the ThalieLab in Brussels for the project and with support from the FNAGP and the Carasso Foundation, the team organized several events around of their findings.

Within the framework of the Sustainable Culture Laboratory # 2 La Table et le Territoire, the artist Thierry Boutonnier in close collaboration with Julie Le Gall (teacher-researcher in geography, ENS de Lyon, Environmental Laboratory City Society) and in connection with the researchers Olivier Hamant (INRA), and Adrien Baysse-Lainé (Lyon 2 / INRA), launched the Selfood / Sugar killer project, a collective exploration of the food cycle of a territory (from production to consumption) by questioning on the differences between the perceived (cultural) value, the displayed value (economic), the social value and the ecological value of food, of products cultivated, manufactured and consumed.

The food question has, to a large extent, designed and structured our territories via local food production methods, the question of territorial and vernacular cultures. The challenges of food, at the scale of a region brings together residents, local communities, associations and private actors who exchange, and build a culture, eating behaviour that becomes not only a material key to their impact on the territory, but also a symbolic and powerful way of acting.

Studying the cultural representation of our food is therefore essential. Today there is a gap between the gastronomic image of “territorial produce” and the reality of food production that is disconnected from the territory. A diet of “pleasure” too meaty, too rich, generating waste that takes into account neither the food cycles nor the current needs of a more sedentary, aging population living in a world more constrained in resources is the norm. These practices are incongruous with climate change which will reshuffle the cards of agricultural production. There is also a great disparity in access to quality food circuits: a cultural or geographical break between “disadvantaged” urban areas and agricultural areas, a “proximity food desert”.

From this geo-socio-political approach, the Selfood / Sugar killer project starts from the idea that sustainable food is linked to awareness of the value of food. To better understand how our food landscapes are developed and what constitutes them, Thierry Boutonnier and Julie Legall have devised a protocol to make the mapping of our food landscapes more visible in order to help transform them.

Based on the creation of a catalogue of hundreds of “selfoods”, self-portraits of their daily meals taken by schoolchildren (developed by the MARGUERITE program and piloted by Julie Legall, this is a research project which aims to raise critical awareness among adolescents on the problems of sustainable agriculture and food), Thierry Boutonnier develops these “selfoods”  into mental maps of food places. and the story of the nutritional, symbolic and economic value that we attribute to food, compared to their real values. He is also interested in the research of Adrien Baysse-Lainé which studies the land value of market gardeners’ land, compared to the value of what they produce in connection with.

Between self-portrait and mental representation of the bundle of relationships that unites us to the environment, the project aims to make visible the physical continuity that links our bodies and our environments through the flow of food, by rewriting a certain history of art, portraits and landscapes.

The objective is to achieve a final restitution of the project in an exhibition dedicated to food. The staging of this complex network of interactions will give rise to a set of visual achievements relating to the values of food (photos, maps, videos and performance in public space) as well as the invention of a protocol of planting “what would you like to sow today” and transactional objects likely to change these representations.

The project team

Thierry Boutonnier was born in 1980, lives and works in Lyon and his work centers around the concept of domestication. Active and reactive as an artist, he investigates a wide range of individual behaviors in reaction to the so-called modern system, engaging in the artistic act with the same requirements for information, know-how, identification of objectives, operational research, decision-making imperatives and concentration of resources as any project management activity. Claiming to be non-specialist, versatile and multidisciplinary, he uses all the means at his disposal: performance, videos, sculptures, images and photographs, diagrams, publications. He is developing a work around the artistic representation of entomophagy, starting from the observation that in France and in these so-called developed states, the agro-industry for has catastrophic practices of employment, hygiene and for the environment. He thus experiences entomophagy by placing it at the heart of collective kitchens in places of transmission of knowledge: colleges, high schools, universities etc

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Adrien Baysse-Lainé is a doctoral student and lecturer in geography, at the Lumière Lyon 2 University and at the INRA in Montpellier. Under the supervision of Claire Delfosse and Coline Perrin, he is preparing a thesis on the construction of the land base for local food farming in France. In particular, it studies in detail the alternative approaches to individual private property – via public entities (inter-municipal authorities) and civil society (Terre de Liens movement) – which promote food relocation. His research is carried out in three territories, with a comparative approach: South-Aveyron, Amiens and Lyon; for the latter, he is associated with the PSDR 4 action research program “Frugal” (Urban forms and food governance).

Olivier Hamant is a researcher in plant biology whose main objective is to understand how plants use the forces generated during growth, along with other biochemical signals (like hormones), to channel their own development and their forms. To do this, he uses an interdisciplinary approach that combines cell biology, physics and modeling. This project is currently funded by the European Research Council, with the aim of identifying the role of mechanical signals in the definition of plant forms. He obtained his doctorate at Versailles (France) in plant cell biology and carried out postdoctoral stays in Ghent (Belgium) and Berkeley (USA). Olivier also collaborates with the Michel Serres Institute on the central theme of the Anthropocene.

Julie Le Gall is a lecturer in geography at the ENS de Lyon and member of Environment, City, Society. Her thesis focused on the conservation of local spaces to feed metropolises through the studying the case of Buenos Aires. Julie Le Gal centers her research on spatial recompositions and development, integrating the questions of peri-urban and peasant agriculture, the relations between town and countryside, neighboring migrations, the challenges of local development, or even pressures – such as climate change – affecting agricultural resources.

The MARGUERITE project is a Teaching-Research project that aims to make the link between agriculture and food. It is carried by the ACCES team of the French Institute of Education (IFÉ), the Ecole Normale Supérieure de Lyon (ENS de Lyon) thanks to the Joint Research Unit (UMR) Environment City and Society (EVS ).

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The partners

The Sustainable Culture Laboratory and its program The Table and the Territory, is supported by the Ministry of Ecological and Solidarity Transition, within the framework of the National Climate Change Adaptation Plan, the Ministry of Culture, the Creative Europe program of the European Union and the Carasso Foundation. It also involves many cultural partners and research institutes: LADYSS-CNRS, ENS Paris, ENS Lyon and INRA.