THY NEIGHBOR'S FRUIT
Atmosphere 2011: Mediated Cities, University of Manitoba, Winnipeg, Canada, 2011
15th Annual Conference on Critical Geography, Ohio University, Athens, Ohio, 2008 (as an earlier version entitled, May I Have Some of Your Loquats?)
I am always amazed by the pervasive use of tropical fruit trees as ornament rather than nutrition. Piles of citrus and loquats sit uneaten beneath trees in the ubiquitous subdivisions that characterize the landscape. The fruit trees that dot people’s yards become a potential resource for nutrition. I think about what can be done with fruit and imagine systems of distribution that could serve as metaphors to create community from a marginalized and unused resource.
This project explores the act of an exchange—asking for something that is free requiring no effort on the part of the owner other than access to their personal space, transforming the fruit into jam (product) and finally returning the fruit not only to the owner of the tree, but to other neighbors who own fruit trees, in the form of jars of jam. My research consists of walking and driving through the neighborhoods around my home and mapping the location of loquat trees and citrus. I ask permission of the people who live at each location to pick their fruit, collecting not only fruit, but recording narratives about their relationship to their trees, perspectives on giving, ownership, and the potential transformation of space that could occur when a resource is shared.
The methodology that informs this piece explores suburbia, as a site of food production examining what constitutes decoration and utility in the ordinary landscape. This research serves to perhaps highlight the commodity/currency found in one’s outdoor environment and how the sharing of that resource could create alternative awareness of community. The organization of these landscapes seen as atypical with respect to providing food revisits the idea of local vis à vis “homegrown” food. The project is a qualitative, poetic interpretation of social/environmental research and fieldwork.