Last Saturday, after their artists’ talk, Dan Allende and Ian Cox from FutureFarmers descended on the Environmental Audit office at the MCA to carry out an auto-audit on their own project. Here they are, deep in concentration.
The auto-audit is a process by which the artists themselves revisit the entire lifecycle of their project to date, trying to dredge up in their memory all the processes and materials which went into its making. I sit with them, suggesting things they might have forgotten, asking questions about the story of the work, and generally trying to stop them from tearing their hair out and running away from the task at hand.
Here’s the heart of the diagram – Dan’s drawing of the Sunshine Still and the Sun Runner – the two major components of their project.
I’ll sum up very briefly how it’s supposed to work. The Sunshine Still converts fallen and excess fruit, as well as decomposing food scraps, into biodiesel and a form of homemade moonshine-hooch. The Sun Runner, for its part, is a pedal-powered vehicle (inspired by Buckminster Fuller’s Dymaxion Car) for touring the local neighbourhood to gather scraps and fruit to feed the Still. The vehicle can also, of course, be used to distribute the grog/fuel at the same time.
As Dan and Ian explained, the whole project is a way of tapping into (and updating for the peak-oil era) that great American underground tradition of moonshine-making. This time, however, instead of just booze, the new moonshine is a homemade (and still somewhat sub-legal) alternative to fossil fuels.
We all sat around the table in the office brainstorming and adding components to the audit diagram as they came to mind – and trying to quantify them. I had my computer hooked up to the internet so that I could conduct some on-the-fly research for them into the obscure corners of their consumption habits.
For example, in one subsection of their diagram, entitled “the people cost”, they estimated that during the project they’ve consumed 12 bottles of wine. I was proudly able to report (admittedly, without a huge amount of reliability), that their consumption of this alcoholic encouragement amounts to 2880 grapes (although I note that Ian has, in the following detail from the diagram, inexplicably listed this quantity as “19,754 grapes”.)
We ran out of time to finish the diagram – there are a few parts which I will have to follow up and add in later, such as the wattage of the lights which illuminate the work in the gallery. (I will need to ask Nikki – the MCA lighting guru – about this).
…and here’s the whole diagram as it stands right now, pinned up on the blackboard in the audit office:
One of the most interesting parts of the process for me was when Ian and Dan tried to take account of the project’s “Yields”. They really struggled with this task. You see, the Sun-Runner/Sunshine Still do not (yet) actually produce hooch and biodiesel – they are, in a way, large, three dimensional prototypes.
So it was as if Dan and Ian felt a bit intimidated by the lack of practical ‘utility’ of what they had spent so many hundreds of hours making, and travelled thousands of miles to present in Sydney. If the “yields” of the Future Farmers’ project could not be quantified as so many gallons of diesel or alcohol (or so many tonnes of rotting fruit saved from landfill) then its outcomes must perforce be an array of more intangible outcomes.
Anyway… here’s what they ended up writing – with much scratchings-out (indicated by XXXs below) and humming and harring and cussing along the way – as if they were being forced by a frustrated parent, at the end of a long and enjoyable summer vacation, to complete a difficult and long-procrastinated-over homework assignment. The result – poetic, raw, searching, not entirely articulate – is something of a manifesto:
NOT PRACTICALLY FUNCTIONAL
(it’s not producing sunshine)
SO WHAT IS ITS FUNCTION?
The Importance of the Sunshine Still/Sun Runner is [XXX] similar to the importance that art holds, with one important difference: OUR WORK CREATIVELY [XXX] INITIATES A DIALOGUE BEYOND the context of ART, the complex issues of sustainability, taxation, and alternatives to fossil fuels. The true YIELD is that the SUNSHINE STILL/Sun Runner proposes the possibility that [XXX] RATHER THAN Looking for a universal solution to issues, PERHAPS true innovations are born from local solutions of people taking initiative on a personal level. FURTHERMORE the Project SHIFTS PERSPECTIVE ON A TRADITION USUALLY REGARDED AS [XXX] DETRIMENTAL TO SOCIETY, DISCOVERING ITS POTENTIAL AS A WAY TO MAKE ALTERNATIVE TO [XXX] FOSSIL FUELS. BOTH the PROPOSAL and the SHIFT IN PERSPECTIVE INSPIRE FUTURE INNOVATORS! [XXX] [XXX] [XXX] [XXX]
UPDATE: here are a couple of photos of the work as installed in the gallery: