Coconino Center for the Arts, Flagstaff, AZ, 2017
Materials: horse manure and skull, work pants and shirt, bowl of carrot sticks from my garden, my body
You eat horse through my carrots was an interactive installation/performance that explored the senses of smell and taste. During the opening reception of Breaking the Barrier, I laid on the floor of the gallery below a horse skull with two wheelbarrows full of horse manure dumped on top of me. A bowl of carrot sticks from my garden were placed on a small pedestal nearby for viewers to eat as they viewed the work.
It explored the concept of trophism, which is the fundamental nutrition involving the actual metabolic exchange of tissues between plants and animals. As humans, at the top of the food chain, we became who we are because of where we came - photosynthesis - from a foundation of plants. We are part of a much larger food web, all sentient living organisms part of a big biosphere that began and evolved millions of years ago. This exchange of energy, tissues and nutrients with plants and other animals literally means we are eating horse through the carrots grown in my garden.
"You eat horse through my carrots, is a provocative look at ecological cycles and the interconnection between life/death, growth/decay. The performance featured the artist buried in pile of horse manure beneath a wall on which a horse skull and work clothes were hung while the audience ate from a bowl of carrots that were grown in the artist’s garden. Part of the innovative nature of this performance piece is its utilization of gustatory, olfactory, as well as visual sense modalities. This sensory cross-modal integration of the experience of the piece functions to impress the meaning of the work on the audience. As one tastes the sweetness of the carrot, the co-mingling faint whiff of the manure creates, in real time, an experience of the normally temporally extended episode of the agricultural cycle. As such, the work is not only a meditation on time but also on the relationship between life and death, growth and decay. The artist is buried underneath horse manure (an image which invokes funerary or burial practices), the remnant of living horses that, we might presume, were fed carrots in advance of making the manure that covered the artist. The audience in turn, symbolically eats horse through the consumption of the carrots whose growth was enabled by the very manure that buries the artist." Russ Pryba, Professor of Aesthetics, School of Philosophy, Northern Arizona University