The Supermarket Museum
Agro-Perma-Lab is an educational initiative working in the fields of agroecology, permaculture, deep ecology and food sovereignty in Poland. It is part of the global food sovereignty movement.
So far, their activities included organising training for leaders, educators and activists in agroecology, permaculture and food sovereignty, preparing a Polish Declaration of Agroecology, creating a diverse community of people engaged in agroecology, permaculture and food sovereignty for disseminating knowledge and fostering long-term cooperation, conducting research interviews with seed savers (in the project of Agro-Perma-Lab: Seeds) and using art to promote these topics: in a podcast series “People in the hands of seeds” and via movies.
We interviewed Weronika Koralewska and Joanna Bojczewska on their project ‘The Supermarket Museum. Living together within limits’. The project originates from the idea that the supermarket food system and its cultural, economic and ecological implications is dangerously fragile and based on a set of values very far away from solidarity. “The supermarket model is based on values of profit-making and doesn’t respect cultural and biological diversity nor local communities. The monopolized food chain production and distribution does not respect dignity of workers and damages ecologies and health causing problems such as food waste,” says Joanna.
The Covid19 crisis exposed wide-spread food poverty and at the same time an other issue: European populations have largely lost their practical knowledge of food culture. Weronika states: “When products were missing on the supermarket’s shelfs, people started asking themselves: Where does that product come from? This means that before we were buying products without even questioning ourselves. Additionally, during the pandemic open markets were obliged to shut down but supermarkets were open because of the strong lobby behind the supermarket business.”
To face this situation the project will use a ‘two-paths’ approach. First, a group of artists, researchers and volunteers will create an online audio-visual exhibition “The Supermarket Museum” which will focus on the 2020s declining phenomenon of supermarket culture. Further, they will organise a forum of food educators and permaculture leaders. The forum will consist of webinars and online sharing of experiences and lectures on food-growing skills. The successful European projects on food sovereignty, food solidarity and land-based food-growing will be displayed as positive examples of collaboration and learning. This will be an inspiration for people to make a transition towards a Food Solidarity Culture.
The aim of the project is to reconnect the European network of agroecology, permaculture and food-sovereignty. They will work with partners from different countries: Poland, Spain, Czech Republic, Ukraine and Germany. The project builds cross-border alliance catalysing the shift towards pan-European food solidarity culture and global food sovereignty.
By focusing on education, they point out to the shared needs in Europe of enabling effective pathways for learning and training of the new generation of food-growers – in farming, cooperativism and in solidarity. The geographical continuum of partners represents the diversity of European experiences understanding the solidarity issues in the agri-food industry. As food-growers are unlikely to meet face-to-face due to responsibilities to the land, plants and animals, the project supports important human-to-human collaborations and communicates potentialities for food-solidarity culture in Europe.
Additionally Agro Perma Lab is going to collaborate with the Biennale Warszawa, one of the most prestigious Polish interdisciplinary cultural institutions conducting artistic, research, educational and social activities. The Biennale has a huge experience in cultural projects online and will advise Agro Perma Lab on how to scale up the project from local to pan European levels.
Shared public spaces?
The project acts local but is based on universal values: access to healthy food and the wisely use of earth’s resources. By re-imagining local food systems, the project addresses the lack of solidarity in the supermarket business and raises issues such as: workers’ rights, disappearance of local food farmers, climate footprint of long-chain distribution.
Thanks to its form the online Supermarket Museum creates an imaginative (it forecasts a post 2030-narrative), collaborative (it involves European artists) and cultural public space. The project includes visual-audio-performative-anthropological ‘artefacts’ such as video-documentaries, interviews, photos, statistics, recordings of supermarket music or radio slogans, podcast, webinars.
The project describes both the current crisis – the issues behind the supermarket culture – and offers solutions, displaying inspiring European examples of Food Sovereignty and Food Solidarity projects. Highlighting community collaboration and solidarity, the educators in food-growing (urban farming, traditional farming villages) will enhance their educational strategies, involving the most vulnerable societal groups, such as farmers, migrants and people with disabilities.
‘The Supermarket Museum’ proposes a different narrative for Europe’s food system, it imagines a different reality. The project will open a public debate online on when and how to change our food production and distribution system. Joining forces with 5 different organisations from Europe, they will bring the local context to a broader perspective, showing how Europe can connect through common values – cooperativism and permaculture.