As a part of the current programme at Delfina Foundation, ‘The Politics of Food’, the artist Asunción Molinos Gordo draws on ideas and techniques responding to the destructive system of food production and its ambivalent, two-faced character. The artist investigates the basics behind food production, distribution and consumption. Ranging from the urban discourse towards the rural every-day, Molinos Gordo highlights in detail destructive steps of the production chain which draw on philosopher David Harvey’s notion of “accumulation by dispossession” and the concept that describes the seductive form of capitalism which concentrates on accumulating wealth and power through alienation from the process and product. The artist asks questions of how this is introduced into the system, where it accumulates, who is behind such a directive, and lastly, what are the effects on the producer - ‘the peasant’.
The first encounter with Molinos Gordo’s work is a beautifully crafted ceramic circular piece representing statistics behind financial production and the inequality experienced by farmers and landowners. The piece outlines the scenarios and the plain reality behind production processes.This work sets the tone for further interpretations. Divided almost in thematic order, further works explore notions of management and the manipulation of the everyday by the few capitalist ‘master-means’. Yet, what exactly causes the imbalance within the production-to-consumption stepping stones?
Emphasising this question, the exhibition features a short film documenting a debate between Anatolian farmers. Affected by a new law, recently introduced into the production scheme, farmers lose control and power over the use and distribution of their local seeds. Forcefully induced into a production model that is driven by capitalist rulers, the farmers are left struggling economically.
‘Accumulation by dispossession’, as the title reads, has always been a part of capitalism. Based on Harvey’s argument, the notion of accumulation by dispossession rose in the 1970s, and is as vital today as it was back then. But what is behind it? As Harvey writes: “What accumulation by dispossession does is to release a set of assets (including labour power) at very low (and in some instances zero) cost.”
A further exhibit, a series of sentences, goes into the detail of deciphering the individual managing agents within the food system. It describes the everyday choreographies of the farmers, beginning with tasks that contradict reality:
“The peasant has a hoe.”
“The peasant eats roast pigeon.”
The series then shifts into representing the essential role of the idealised farmer in today’s food system, not only reflecting on the system itself. It leaves the audience with a clear understanding that it is certainly not about the products or lack of them, but the unequal and priviatised accumulation and distribution of (and from) the resources. As Harvey further argues: “overaccumulated capital can seize hold of [...] assets and immediately turn them to profitable use.” And in the case of the Anatolian farmers, it results in lost control over products, by-products, and their future growth, as the pricing process is left to capital law and its management:
“Irrigiation water get privatized.”
“The fertile soil starts turning into deserts.”
“The peasant pays for irrigation water.”