We interview artist Rosa Farber about her contribution, 'root' from Art Licks Issue 18 (Spring 2016), to consider the relationship between her art practice and life on a farm.
Holly Willats, Art Licks: For Art Licks Issue 18 you contributed the piece ‘root’, which presents an interview between radio host Elena Roue and a Jerusalem artichoke. Where did the idea for this piece come from, and why is the protagonist a Jerusalem artichoke in particular?
Rosa Farber: That year (2015), I had left London and returned to the family farm; this move made it difficult to sustain commercial or 'professional' ties with the city, except, as it turned out, with sales of Jerusalem artichokes—as these became an ongoing connection with London. This was due to an organic wholesaler in the New Covent Garden Market buying several hundred kg a week. I'd drive them up there, either very late at night or in the early hours of the morning.
At that time, I had thought a lot on my growing disconnect from the city and what that would mean for an art practice. I somehow felt rejection, failure and some FOMO about being back in the countryside; having not really been able to 'make it' work work-wise and rent-wise in London ... the city didn't want or need yet another fine art graduate performance artist. However, what it DID need – in high demand for that matter – were Jerusalem artichokes!
Had you done something like this before in print?
Not really tbh. It's quite odd isn't it?
It's quite a violent tale … "we are torn apart", but with a poignant and poetic end; almost like a fable. Do you often find yourself thinking of stories whilst working on the farm?
Haha, it is quite violent yes! Growing and farming is all about life and death. We grow plants, fruit, veg and look after them for a portion of the year, giving each plant everything it needs to flourish and then – usually right before it is at its prime – we cut off its head or tear it from the soil where its grown from.
While working I do think of stories and memories, imagine scenarios or encounters. Especially when doing a monotonous physical job, like hand weeding or digging j.arts...
How does your art practice and your work on the farm intertwine?
This is something I've been questioning and trying to examine in my work for years. Having moved away, I recently returned to the farm again in March 2020, and, once again, have let the daily and seasonal rhythms and structures of growing set the task-scape for my practice. I hope that the work made here can fertilise the farm and bring new perspectives, free from the usual lenses that portrays farming as a strict practice in economic productivity.
Rosa Farber is an artist, performer, and organic grower, who has recently returned from Glasgow to work on her family's biodynamic farm in West Sussex. Rosa's work is in a process of transition, trying to work through how farming can function as an art practice, and vice versa.