Potato/Batata: A Pan-Atlantic Parmentier Exchange
Deirdre O'Mahony and Frances Whitehead
Burren College Gallery, August 2015
Potato/Batata was a collaborative project between Deirdre O’Mahony and Chicago artist Frances Whitehead, at the BCA Gallery in 2015, a reflection upon the artist’s exchange of ideas since 2009. Based on the pan-Atlantic diaspora of new world tubers - the potato (Solanum tuberosum) and the sweet potato (Ipomoea batatas) - the installation reflected the ongoing movement of plants and people that continues to shape world agri + culture, the food system and the landscape.
Deirdre O'Mahony/Frances Whitehead Potato Batata installation. Photograph Martina Cleary 2015
The conceptual heart of the installation consisted of a simple mirrored pair of tuber plantings in the US mid-west and in Ireland, each containing the two important but botanically unrelated tubers - the potato and the sweet potato. The sweet potatoes were grown in containers by O’Mahony and subsequently installed in the gallery. This mirrored a potato planting by Whitehead in her garden in the USA. The installation also included a map, Diaspora Papa, by Whitehead showing the global spread of the potato from South America, video works by both artists, prints, educational images and the SPUD project archive of artefacts and a library of potato books.
Potato Batata dinner and Skype conversation with Frances Whitehead Photograph Deirdre A. Power 2015.
A key part of the collaboration was the production of decaled ceramic plates that were used for a dinner that took place simultaneously in the USA and Ireland on 15th August 2015. At BCA, this took place in the gallery attended by more than 40 artists, activists and scientists at a conference organized by Green Foundation Ireland and at Whitehead’s home in Gary, Indiana with artists and local residents. The installation was surrounded by hubs featuring projects and collaborations by O’Mahony from 2010 – 2015, reflecting on rural planning, human and natural ecologies and changing rural/urban relationships and how, and in what way, artistic knowledge and practice can directly engage with these issues.
Deirdre O'Mahony/Frances Whitehead Potato Batata Plates used for Pan-Atlantic Dinner. Photo. Martina Cleary
Potato Pallet display of Frances Whitehead's Potato Hero Stamps, potato books from O'Mahony's library and embroidered SPUD Sadhbh Gaston Photograph Martina Cleary 2015
Potato/Batata was generously funded by Clare County Arts Office with assistance from GMIT .