Allotment

Allotment – Exhibition @ London Metropolitan University Sep.2023

How can urban gardening be reframed as public art? In this project, Magda Olchawska created a multimedia art piece composed of natural materials such as dry flowers, plants from the artist’s urban garden and super greens that grew and changed during the exhibition. She used video and journaling pages to share stories from her childhood in 1980s Poland, which was still under communist oppression.

“Allotment” is a multidimensional project replicating real-life allotments while embodying the broader ecological and sustainable multifunctionality of urban allotments and gardens. The project identifies with ecological art and uses materials already in circulation, cultivating the artist’s plea for sustainability within her creative practice.

Olchawska set up a balcony garden in London in 2022 to explore the possibility of cutting down food expenses by cultivating a garden in a small urban space without access to land. Soon, the garden began integrating into her creative practice, expanding beyond her filmmaking practice and incorporating Olchawska’s environmental advocacy through art.

ARTIST STATEMENT

“Allotment” encapsulates my commitment to working creatively with diverse mediums, making the projects inclusive for neurodiverse individuals. The garden’s live sculpture helps to relax and creates a calming space to move around the installation while exploring different layers and forms utilised in this project. My interest in allotments and small urban gardening spaces was motivated by self-sufficiency and sustainability movements, which gained traction during the COVID-19 pandemic. The title refers to a traditional allotment I represent through video art, plants from my balcony garden, dry flowers and herbs, and my mother’s preserves. The handmade journaling pages illustrate the summer harvest in an abstract way, while the short stories are inspired by my childhood. Despite the terrifying economic and political reality, watching my granny cook and work in her garden gave me the stability I needed. Through actively engaging me in all her activities, unknowingly, my grandmother passed her own tacit knowledge to me.

The installation aspires to engage the audience by recreating an actual allotment with the creative use of diverse textures, fabrics and mediums, imitating multilayered elements that allotments are made of. The project, relies on materials which are already in circulation. For instance, my plants grow in pods sourced from family and friends. I reuse the small plastic containers for seedlings or plastic food trays to grow super greens. The paper for the journaling pages and jute were recycled from my parent’s house. Long-term sustainability in my creative practice and focus on environmental issues defines my work as ecological art. The “Allotment” project depicts my love of gardens and commitment to growing plants and food in limited spaces. Furthermore, the project aims to redefine future allotments and small green areas in the face of fast-approaching food supply and ecological disruptions driven by unprecedented environmental changes. Embracing inherited tacit knowledge could be the answer to locally grown food.