Bompas and Parr at Kew Gardens
As part of London’s Kew Garden’s summer celebration of the bounty of nature, IncrEdibles: A Voyage through Surprising Edible Plants, dynamic British duo, Sam Bompas and Harry Parr, dubbed ‘architectural foodsmiths’, have transformed Kew’s Palm House pond into a tutti frutti boating experience and participatory artwork, at the centre of which is a floating pineapple island and banana scented grotto. Bompas and Parr are known as ‘the jellymongers’ for their gelatinous sculpture and hosting of such esoteric events as the architectural jelly banquet. Their innovative work is intriguingly interdisciplinary, sitting as it does in the interstices between food, architecture, performance and installation.
Before stepping into brightly painted rowing boats, visitors are given 3D glasses which pleasantly distort reality, making everything seem, well, tutti frutti. Once on the water and rowing merrily around the base of Pineapple Island, the banana grotto, only accessible by boat, beckons. Once inside and inhaling deeply, one experiences Bompas & Parr’s banana cloud, a fruit based weather system for the nose and tongue. It is created using specially adapted humidification technology most regularly used in tropical fruit production, the duo explain, the high humidity level itself enhancing taste perception as meteorology and pomology (the study of fruit) collide.
Once on dry land again and minus the 3D specs, we head straight for Pineapple Island. Featuring an interactive plant installation by sonic artist and renewable energy enthusiast, Mileece, the plants surrounding Bompas & Parr’s giant golden orb (chosen as a symbol of Kew’s extensive bromeliad collection), are transformed into sensor based instruments sensitive to human touch. In this way visitors are able to interact with this ‘Soniferous Eden’, which has been exhibited at numerous international venues including New York’s MoMA, and contribute unmistakably audibly to the ambient sounds emanating from the island.
Incredibly, there are 240,000 to 500,000 plant species on earth that bear fruit, of which 70,000 to 80,000 are thought to be edible. Exotic by name and exotic by nature, this number includes fruits like the durian, banned in public places and yet devoured by devotees throughout Southeast Asia, the atemoya pitabu and the kalaw. Kew’s Palm House is home to over 60 of these species. IncrEdibles, of which Bompas and Parr are a part, will showcase the sheer number of edible plants grown at Kew. “A partnership with Kew makes complete sense for us”, say Bompas & Parr, “their concern with the world’s plant life directly provides us with our raw materials of creativity. Our design process always starts with a raw ingredient – be it fruit, alcohol, chocolate, or coffee. Trace any ingredient back far enough and you get to plants. We always like to think that our work encourages people to think again. By applying architectural techniques, we work to persuade people to look again at what is on the end of their forks”.
Visitors will be inspired to broaden their relationship with what they eat, by taking part in or observing the banquet of offerings that make up this fantastic festival. Get down to Kew for a totally tutti frutti experience to remember.
Nicola Baird, aka Artfulbloggeruk, is a freelance writer based in London. (www.artfulbloggeruk.tumblr.com)