Week 34: Eating in Public

Hi Everyone,

This Tuesday is another event in a year-long series of weekly conversations and exhibits in 2010 shedding light on examples of Plausible Artworlds.

This week we’ll be talking with Gaye Chan and Nandita Sharma about the Hawaii-based artist collective ‘Eating In Public’.


Since 2003, Eating in Public has, among other projects, engaged in ‘remakng the commons’. Drawing on the example of the 17th century Diggers, the group began planting papaya seedlings on public land – ‘public’ land, not ‘common’ land. As they explain, ‘in doing so, we broke the existing laws of the state that delineate this space as “public” and thereby set the terms for its use. Our act has two major purposes: one is to grow and share food; the other is to problematize the concept of “public” within public space.’ In a scrupulously well-documented and lively narrative, the group describes the challenges to their attempts at ‘commoning’ in a society where every legal provision has been made to prevent it. The first papaya crop was eventually uprooted before the trees bore fruit, and the land fenced off. The group has subsequently shifted its strategy to another commons: the Internet, where they have set up FreeBay, an on-line service something like eBay, with the notable exception that everything is free – including papaya seedlings.

Nomoola is thus explicitly interested in promoting — and testing the plausibility of — a truly “free world”, something which Plausible Artworlds has also been examining over the past six months. “Free” as in freewheeling. Free, certainly, from asking the powers that be for ‘permission’ to develop a growing chain of free stores where anyone and everyone can leave or take goods. Free as in freedom — pointing to those common spaces tolerably free from the logic of capital, in the very midst of capitalist society itself.