70 x 7 The Meal Act XXXIX, Peterborough
Materials: Table setting for 500 guests, Royal Limoges porcelain plates (Two editions of Ed 250), silk jacquard table runner (Ed 30m), inkjet table runner (Ed 500m)
Dimensions: An open-air lunch in the city of Peterborough
Exhibition history: 2015 Cathedral Square, Peterborough, UK
Courtesy: Lucy + Jorge Orta, Metal Peterborough
Harvest was a unique public art event and participatory installation that coincided with the harvest moon on September 20th, 2015. Its aim was to revive the 8000-year-old agricultural heritage of the UK town of Peterborough and explore the core motifs and objects that people associate with their cultural heritage after mechanisation and industrialisation changed the way we view agriculture. The 34th act in Lucy + Jorge Orta's collaborative series 70x7 The Meal was the key celebratory event.
The event brought together 500 local residents in Peterborough's Cathedral Square for the first public meal of the series in the UK. The series 70x7 The Meal explores the ritual of dining and introduces motifs, symbolism, and language collected through research. The artists' bespoke table artworks, including Royal Limoges porcelain plates and table-runners, were based on the tradition of the harvest history and folklore, through research undertaken in the region. These relational objects, placed in an unhabitual public setting, were designed as conversation promts, which the BBC Radio recorded and archived.
After the Harvest event, the artists' solo exhibition 'Food' opened at the Peterborough Museum and Art Gallery in 2016. The exhibition showcased artworks from the artists' archive as well as two commissioned pieces that served as a legacy to the community engagement in Peterborough. One of these commissioned pieces was the sculpture Bread which featured four reconditioned wooden wheelbarrows suspended from steel supports onto which 100 cast aluminum bread loaves baked by the local community were placed. This sculpture was a reminder of the ancestral act of making bread and the humble objects from rural origins that cross cultures and centuries.
The second installation entitled Seeds was composed with 31 larger-than-life hand-blown glass seeds crafted in Murano, Italy, and 33 pigment-ink watercolour drawings. This installation reflected the artists' engagement to preserve seed varieties that may be threatened with extinction. Together, these two summative works raise questions about conservation and legacy, shedding new light on threatened traditions, cultures, and species, and drawing parallels to the impact of mechanisation and industrialisation on farming practices and the loss of biodiversity.