“There’s such a separation from food. People just go to the store and get it. We want to bring that to people.”
Kilgore native Ayrton Chapman and her partner-in-art, Russell Bauer, are embracing a new philosophy – ‘If you feed them, they will come.’
The pair is on tour with their Rotisserie Rickshaw, part of a still-developing Edible Carnival, an art installation with a food foundation and an educational emphasis. They’ll be swinging by the Texan Theater Sunday, setting up at 5 p.m. and welcoming guests at 6 p.m.
“We’ve been working on all these different food-growing or food-cooking apparatuses that harness different types of energy or use different types of processes,” said Chapman, who went on from Kilgore High School to classes at Kilgore College, a Bachelor’s degree at University of North Texas and the University of New Mexico for her Masters. She’s excited and inspired to work on the Edible Carnival, “a techno-grotesque traveling farm spectacle.”
Bauer spearheaded the concept, crafting the rickshaw, a brightly-colored, functional, rolling rotisserie. Finished in 2015, its fast approaching its 20th installation. He and Chapman have partnered on the larger project.
As the artists put it at EdibleCarnival.org, “The Rotisserie Rickshaw is a specialized propane grill and sculptural research project. It harnesses the convection of hot air to turn a turbine that drives the spit, slowly rotating vegetables as they roast. Excess heat is dissipated through an array of Peltier modules (or thermoelectric generators) that provide electrical current to power a series of LEDs that illuminate the work.”
The piece is made to move, and the artists have been on the road, most recently displaying the rickshaw at South by Southwest (SXSW) in Austin.
“During events the Rotisserie Rickshaw roasts vegetables that are given freely to the audience while information about the systems and their functionality is shared. The rickshaw provides a jumping off point for complex conversations with complete strangers, as it is both an attempt to bridge the distance between people by sharing food as well as knowledge. No matter what age, any person can look at the rickshaw with a sense of wonder at the world and the laws and processes that shape it.”
It’s the second piece in the Edible Carnival, Chapman says, and they’re only the beginning.
“We eventually want to have a full-on, multiple-attraction carnival,” she said. “There’s a lot of education, wanting to teach people about food, food processing.”
The first piece in the developing collection was Livestock, large hanging pods, cocoon-like, crafted for growing wheatgrass within. Custom LED lighting complemented the hydroponic art.
“It does a light show when people get near them,” Chapman said. “We have a residency coming up in May where we’re working on the next big piece,” growing wheat on their own portion of an acre of land. “We’re starting to write grants and applying for funds for new works.
“It’s funny and a little whimsical then there’s this science aspect.”
Bauer and Chapman are eager to share it with as many people as possible, tantalizing taste buds, brain cells and imaginations all at once.
As visitors will see on Sunday at the Rotisserie Rickshaw demonstration, “We’re giving out veggies that we roast on it. It makes a that really easy avenue to talk to people about it,” Chapman said. “It’s so cool to come to my hometown and see everybody and do the thing.”
For more information, visit EdibleCarnival.org.