Vegetable Liberation Project
Public Intervention, video documentation (2009)
Vegetable Liberation Project is a work that addresses the oppression of highly conforming supermarket produce by releasing the vegetables back into the wild public spaces around Yokohama and allowing them to naturally revert to their untamed primal state.


One way that Japan’s visually oriented culture manifests itself is in the ravishing produce found on the shelves of the local supermarket. Rows of pristinely cut cabbage and daikon radishes perch enticingly next to carefully wrapped mizuna greens, while perfectly round tomatoes look on alluringly. These vegetables seem to embody the essence of their lineage, groomed over months to conform perfectly to our very idea of their pedigree.

However, this beauty and conformity, while aesthetically seductive, also belies a sense of repressive control and compliance. Rows of identical daikon without a stem out of place betray a strict discipline. Where do the imperfect vegetables go? The vegetables that make it to the supermarket shelves must be products of rigorous indoctrination and surely yearn for release from their plastic bag confinements. They need to breathe fresh air.

Vegetable Liberation Project addresses the oppression of supermarket produce by releasing them into the wild public spaces of Yokohama. Much like releasing captured animals into the wild, the hope is that the liberated vegetables will return to nature and revert to their authentic wabi-sabi state.

Project Description:

In the Vegetable Liberation Project, supermarket vegetables will be reintroduced into the world through re-farming. The project has three phases: Research, Experimentation, and Implementation.

Pictured here, one of many reconnaissance missions to the local supermarket chain CERTA. In the background we caught on camera scores of oppressed vegetables begging for freedom. Although the cages were relatively clean, mobility was severely impared and the plastic wrapped cabbages and radishes seem especially desperate and in need of air and help.

Phase I: Research

Areas of Yokohama will be surveyed and assessed for their potential
as sites for vegetable liberation. Ideal locations will have the following characteristics:
• Soil deep enough for roots to take hold
• Publically accessible
• Free of other landscaping
• Sufficient sunlight
• Regular access to water

Pictured: a typical site with re-planting potential. This site was a small plot near the re-developed "future port" Minatomirai. Foot traffic was minimal, but the area was not isolated. Although ideal in size, one negative aspect of this plot of land was it's location across the river in full view of Yokohama's main police station.

A small sampling of the variety of liberated vegetables that will enter the test garden and then ultimately, the wild.
Phase II: Experimentation

A test garden will be set up to observe and record the abilities of supermarket vegetables to take root and continue growing even after being suffocated in plastic for several days. Vegetables
to be tested include:
• Small radishes
• Daikon
• Potatoes
• Yellow onions
• Small onions
• Green (spring) onions
• Leeks
• Gobo root
• Bamboo shoot
• Sweet potato
• Carrot
• Ginger
• Green peas
• Fava beans
• Kale-like greens
• Young spinach
• Young napa cabbage
• Soybean sprouts
• Spicy green sprouts
• Cosmo sprouts
• Garlic
Pictured here are in-sink "garbage bins" that were creatively reused into planter boxes for fava beans, peas, and garlic. The garbage bins are a ubiquitous household item in japan.
The test garden on the balcony of the Bashamichi apartment. Nearly everything survived and some even thrived after being re-introduced into the soil. Below left to right: a small re-planted onion's shoots multiplied in the garden; the rolling file rack turned sprout "apartment" (i nicknamed this the tokyo apartu),; a wide shot of the test garden at the beginning of the process. The photo above right was taken appoximately 3 weeks later when the vegetables had taken root and were growing again.

Phase III: Implementation

The types of vegetables that show promise in the test garden will be purchased from the local supermarket and taken to the identified sites. There they will be re-introduced to the world through re-farming. The hope is that through the Vegetable Liberation Project they will thrive, prosper and realize their true nature.

These photos show the vegetables upon their re-introduction to nature. Pictured here are small daikon radishes (center and right) planted into some earth alongside the river, and garlic bulbs (left) staking their claim on a bed of what looks to be hyacinths(?).

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