Giant Pile of Carrots Connects Urbanites to the Origins of Their Food

Encountering 29 tonnes of carrots in a London street raises a few questions.

carrots

Christopher Furlong / Getty Images

When an enormous pile of carrots was dumped in front of a University of London building last week, nobody knew what to think. People joked on social media about it being a commentary on the school's "carrot and stick" approach to staff, a jab at immune-boosting tips to ward off COVID-19, and the fact that a driver must have put the wrong delivery address into the GPS. 

None of that is accurate, of course, and the carrots are actually the basis of an art installation called "Grounding," created by Rafael Pérez Evans as part of Goldsmiths College's MFA degree show. Twenty-nine tonnes of carrots, weighing around 64,000 pounds, were dumped from a truck all at once and left on the pavement. They are symbolic on several levels.

First, Pérez Evans wants people to start thinking more about the origin of their food. The word "grounding" refers to the therapeutic effect of grounding oneself, or connecting electrically, with the ground. It also suggests that people should become more connected with the earth that grows their food, and not always think of food as something that spontaneously appears pre-packaged on store shelves. Pérez Evans writes,

"T​he city is a site that suffers from food, plant and soil blindness, a place hyper-separated from its periphery, its food and its labourers. Dumping protests bring blinded city people into an alarming contact with their forgotten foods and its production."

Second, the carrots are a powerful statement about the absurd aesthetic standards upheld by supermarkets in the developed world. All of the carrots used in the installation had been rejected as too ugly to sell, and yet contain all the same nutritional value that "perfect" carrots do and required just as many resources to grow. Supermarkets need to stop discarding food on such a superficial basis, and shoppers need to be willing to take "ugly" food home to use.

Finally, the installation is meant to reflect the practice of dumping food, used by European farmers as a form of protest against government policies that fail to support them or pay them fairly for their hard work. As Dan Nosowitz wrote for Modern Farmer

"Food dumping has also been used for decades as a protest by farmers, to make their voices heard about labor issues, price fixing, and other types of mistreatment in the market. Even within the past few years, French farmers have dumped manure and produce as a protest against artificially low prices for their goods."

The giant pile of carrots will remain in place until October 6, at which point it will be collected and redistributed as animal feed. Some students have ignored a sign saying the carrots are not for human consumption, taking advantage of the free snacks, but it's unlikely they'll make much of a dent in the heap. One thing is for sure – the Goldsmiths College student are unlikely ever to look at a carrot in quite the same light, and that's probably just what Pérez Evans wanted to accomplish.

Video below shows carrots being dumped; be sure to watch till the end!