A year long picnic

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School of Arts, Design and Architecture | Master's thesis
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This text is an analysis of the processes of grief work and resilience strategies through the lens of feminist food and care practices. The thesis is divided into four seasonal picnics which trans-verses personal writings, reflections and critical analysis of care practices as I navigated the loss of my father during the first year of my studies on the Visual Cultures, Curating and Con-temporary Art Masters programme. It journeys through the experiences of grief, isolation and pain felt during the recent pandemic and the fatigue of living in climate and social unravelling. This text questions whether what was learned during my personal grief journey could be translated into more broadly applicable strategies for building resilience in difficult times. Beginning in July 2020, the Summer Picnic is an invitation to a Microbial Picnic. Here, strategies of leaning-in to the support of others are introduced. Leaning in was introduced at my father’s wake to help keep ourselves standing in unsteadying times. Later at the Microbial Picnic, this strategy is expanded to include picnic companions that are most often overlooked and yet crucial to our ability to digest and entangled in our liveability: the microbes. Here, we acknowledge the transformative effects of fermentation and microbial contributions to our ability to build resilience. The Autumn Picnic navigates the forest and my garden. The Mushroom Gathering is a strategy for building empathetic bonds through the process of attuning to our surroundings. I was searching for memory of my father’s voice but also a sense of calm within me. This was approached with fungal companions. Decay, death and life are explored through the life ways of fungi. As I attempt to come to terms with dying and death processes, I can see how life begins anew in the compost and relations that remain intact. Deeper Listening practices assist in relational attuning and opening to the cycles of life, death and decay, aiding in a movement from darkness. A long process began during the cold months of winter. The Winter Picnic is an invitation to Afternoon Tea. At my father’s Memorial Gathering tea was served. Confronted with feelings of shame about contributing to commemorations of colonial acts, I respond by expanding the stories that have made up my world view. I do this with bovine grief stories and stories of an afternoon tea ingredient: Milk. Multispecies storytelling has opened possibilities of gentler practices with our cohabitors. Broadening the stories that are told has great potential for more careful learning and gentle co-existing. The Spring Picnic speaks of collaborative processes and the importance of carefulness in our interactions. Care was needed as we commemorated my father on the shoreline. Care was needed too, as a group gathered on Partiosaari island for a retreat to help build resilience. Carefulness was practiced on watery edges. It is an essential ingredient in our abilities to work and live collectively. As careful interactions developed around shared food; in the kitchen, around grills and picnic tables, a recipe book for care and resilience was formed to help us to navigate difficulty. Here are strategies for care through how we gather with food—a personal journey of grief that has transformed into knowledge about our potential to live well together.
el Baroni, Bassam
Thesis advisor
Davis, Lucy
grief work, feminist care practices, feminist food practices, resilience building, multispecies storytelling, collaborative coexisting, multispecies acknowledgement, empathy building
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