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Arts & Culture

Brown Arts Initiative symposium grounds itself in concepts of land

Panel discussions, screenings explore concepts of land, art, food, society

Senior Staff Writer
Monday, September 23, 2019

The French concept of “paysagisme” served as the platform for the symposium. “Paysagisme” translates to “landscaping” and encompasses all aspects of land, including art, design, agriculture and ecology.

On Sept. 19 and 20, students, faculty and other members of the University community gathered at the Granoff Center for the Creative Arts to attend the Brown Arts Initiative’s third annual symposium about humans and land.

The symposium, titled “Terra: Land, Art, Justice,” includedkeynote lectures by artists, curators and scholars. Audience members walked away with insight into the intricate relationships between food, space and humans.

Anne Bergeron, the Brown Arts Initiative managing director, discussed how the intersections of land, art, food and society inspired this year’s symposium. Specifically, BAI drew inspiration from the French concept of paysagisme as the platform for the symposium, Bergeron said. The French term paysagisme, which directly translates to “landscaping,” extends beyond its literal meaning to encompass all aspects of land, such as land art, design, agriculture, space and ecology.

“We knew we wanted to do something around culinary arts, and we thought we could make the connection between food, agriculture, food systems and artists and scholars that are working relative to land,” Bergeron continued.

This theme manifested itself in one of the symposium’s discussions, titled “Closing Conversations: Planting Seeds,” which spoke of the unique relationship between seeds, humans and imperialism. In this talk, Elizabeth Hoover, associate professor of American Studies and faculty chair of the Native American Indigenous Studies Initiative, spoke of food sovereignty and justice. Hoover discussed projects that involved the “rematriation and coalition for resistance, specifically planting sacred corn seeds in the path of pipelines.”

This grassroots activism project worked against the Dakota Access Pipeline among others to proclaim the sovereignty of indigenous land. Much of her presentation centered around “rematriation,” a concept that “connects indigenous people to the land by connecting … heirloom seeds back to the communities and back to the land.”

Other events in the symposium ranged from panel discussions to film screenings, all of which centered around the subject of food, land, art and more. Farm Fresh RI also hosted a pop-up market on Friday where audience members could survey locally sourced produce and products.

Audience member Iman Husain ’22 spoke about why she attended this symposium. “It is really interesting that our relationship between land and food is so complex,” she said. “But we have just been trained to treat each subject as a sterile, static thing.”

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