Elena Harvey Collins
I work in an experimental, project based fashion across different media, addressing consistent concerns around the nature of community, public space and the built environment, and the forces and processes that shape it. I hunt for signs in the landscape that point to some wider statement about who and what we are.
Inspired by the vernacular of alternative economies and the nomadic merchants who use the city’s abandoned spaces as a network from which to sell their goods, I operated a mock food cart that traveled to different locations around Columbus, Ohio in order to temporarily animate the margins by using them as a venue for the preparation and sharing of food with passers by. The act of cooking a meal, bound up with notions of comfort, family and giving, is recontextualized into an uncomfortable space, as an attempt to momentarily subvert the tendency for the engineered isolation through forced convenience that is so prevalent in many midwestern cities. I am generally mistaken for a street vendor; the question ‘what are you selling?’ is the first thing people ask.
Into an empty space is inserted a temporary construction of place: a kitchen, a meeting point, a physical anchor around which interactions take place. There is also an educational bent to this project. As always, food offers an entry point into discussions about a range of topics; from the history of the specific site on which we are standing, to local food access issues. Working with local food educators and non-profit partners offers a point of focus to these gatherings. Momentarily, a microcosm of a community is created and then dispersed as the participants come and go.