Artists hit the road using creativity, communication, and food to address social issues
World – On a cargo bicycle converted into a traveling taco stand—complete with solar oven and rocket stove—artist Nance Klehm rode through the back roads and margins of Copenhagen, Denmark. While exploring gardens and back alleys, she gathered food. As soon as she had enough foraged, bartered, and donated ingredients to start cooking, she made homemade tortillas and tacos and handed them out for free. The catch? She asked recipients for stories, which she recorded, about “land, migrations, homescapes, dinner tables, and persisting eros.”
Thematically, Rambling Range (2006) is linked to Klehm’s urban farm, which she operates in Chicago. Through eco-educational workshops, food-foraging walks, seasonal food preparation, and a variety of food-sharing events, her public art practice exposes people to natural processes that offer strategies for survival. But the mobile cart—along with the shared food and stories of the Denmark project—served as a vital medium to provoke audience reaction. “The spectacle and the intimacy of the offering made through Rambling Range delighted many and scared off a few,” she says.
Klehm is one of many artists using mobile food carts in participatory public art practices. The idea isn’t exactly new. Nearly 30 years ago inSeattle, Washington, for example, artist Cris Bruch began to create sculptural pieces and street-based performances from shopping carts. In an early street performance called Vegetable Currency (1987), Bruch dressed as a waiter and used one of his mobile metal cart sculptures to create a roving cooking performance that involved frying and serving onions in Seattle’s downtown streets.
More recently, artists have been engaging in field research, social organizing, community rituals, public interventions, educational workshops, audio documentation, and performance art with their mobile works—and serving up food and information along the way. Here are a few recent innovative works.
Jules Rochielle specializes in community and civic engagement, participatory media community arts, community organizing, and other nonprofit sector issues. She co-creates innovative public and social practices and cross-sector community collaborations. She is currently based in Los Angeles, California