As part of our upcoming project ‘Seeding the Commons’, Custom Food Lab directors have been working with artist Jack Ky Tan to creatively reimagine our governance. Custom Food Lab has been through so many changes over the last couple of years. When we began, we were very focused on aligning food production through our restaurant (Custom Folkestone) with artistic and discursive practices during programmes such as Something Held In the Mouth, but during COVID, we felt the need to go deeper into the landscape, the food system and the networks of care this connected to. We quickly developed new and multiplicitous ways of working, from arts/research with the Speculative Landscapes collective, to exploring systems of solidarity by hosting the Food Art Research Network (led by Madeleine Collie), engaging directly in growing food with our local community with our core project the Locavore Growing Project and through movement building with Feeding Folkestone. In 2022, as we begin to re-engage with art-making and community events, we realised that growing food and connecting to the land has become the heart of our work and the lens through which we view the world. We were therefore thrilled when Jack Ky Tan invited us to re-design our working approaches by creating a ‘governance garden’.
In Jack’s words: “So, for example, could we begin to think of doing funding applications as weeding and preparing ground for planting? What about absence as fallowing? What kind of protections or adaptations would we make if we regarded risk or PESTLE analysis** as weather planning? And the RHS has recently advised that there are no such things as pests anymore and they are simply other animals entangled with us in our garden ecosystem. So how do we begin to accept organisational ‘pests’ as part of our work ecosystem?”
The Custom board have begun to explore and embed this in the way that we work and over the coming 3 months, we will be opening this out to include all our organisational practices and inviting our network of partners (through Feeding Folkestone) to join us. We will ultimately be producing a Project Manual to share this process, aligned with our Patchwork Farm vision, to inspire and empower other community growing groups, grassroots food organisations, artists and cultural organisations.
About Jack Ky Tan
Jack Ky Tan makes work that explores the connection between the social, the legal and art. Using social relations and cultural norms as material, he creates performances, performatives, sculpture, video and participatory projects that highlight the rules — customs, rituals, habits and theories — that guide human behaviour.
Prior to becoming an artist, Jack trained as a lawyer and worked in civil litigation as well as in NGOs undertaking human rights case, policy and anti-racist campaigning work. He then studied ceramics, obtaining a BA from the University of Westminster and an MA from the Royal College of Art. In 2020, Jack completed his Ph.D in legal aesthetics and performance at the University of Roehampton, Dept of Drama, Theatre and Performance. Jack is a co-editor of the Art/Law Journal.
About Seeding the Commons
Seeding the Commons initiates a long term programme from Custom Food Lab exploring art-making as a practice of commoning knowledge systems around food. Curated by Creative Director Cherry Truluck, it will include a series of convivial gatherings and offerings in the form of workshops, artist publications and discursive events alongside the development of an artist-led community food growing practice with Custom’s Locavore Growing Project. Taking the innate potentiality and complexity of the Seed as its starting point, artists and community will be immersed in urgent discourse around the creative production and mediation of knowledge in the Commons, exploring synergy between contemporary art, community growing and activism. More information coming soon.