Motivated to build relationships around local food production and self-sufficiency, "Radishes for Adoption" brought about the playful transition of verandas, rooftops and unused space into tiny, food production areas in Kyoto, Japan. In spring 2009, artist Markuz Wernli Saito encountered people in front of a supermarket and asked them to "adopt" five radish seeds each. Radishes are edible within just a few weeks. The artist claimed (truthfully) that there wasn’t sufficient sun and space for growing veggies at his house. Eventually, 30 adopters agreed and signed up to grow the radishes at their homes and meet with the artist once a week for the well-being of the plants. This project brought diverse people into a networked food-growing venture, regardless of their gardening experience or lifestyle. After seven weeks of mutual learning and encouragement, the radishes were made into vinegar pickles and exhibited in an installation of illuminated jars. The project concluded with a radish-tasting party where the participants came together for the first time to share their experience while nibbling on homegrown produce.
Over the project’s two-month duration, the artist made 182 home visits with the radish growers and spent about 80 hours providing gardening advice and encouragement. To reach the adopters, the artist biked about 850 miles. The radish growers spent approximately 400 hours (fifteen minutes per day) to raise a total of 200 plants. During the course of the project, four seeds allegedly ended up in the stomach of a bird. When the roots were pickled, most of the insecticide-free radish leaves became part of the food chain for lice, slugs, or bell maggots. Two radish growers happened to move and took their adopted crops with them.
Radishes for Adoption was an attempt to engage people who didn't know each other in something that was not only bigger than themselves but also playful. It seemed unlikely to get strangers to work together on a project like this, but they did so enthusiastically. Online documentation on this progression of growing food, relationships and commitment is available here: http://www.momentarium.org/experiments/radish/
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Markuz Wernli Saito is an interdisciplinary artist who playfully directs—rather than restricts—the engagement of audience and project participants. The creation of unusual encounters and collaborative situations in everyday life becomes his work. Employing communication strategies in food culture, personal habits and everyday actions, he completed projects like "Thank You Notes to the Garbage Men" (Kyoto, 2007), "130 Tea Moments" (San Francisco, 2008), "The Taste of Hands, Circulating Kimchi" (Seoul, 2010), "Dancing Cooks, The No-Menu Restaurant" (Anyang, 2010) and "Growing Fence, Vertical Garden For Rent" (Kyoto, 2011). Markuz works as independent artist, creative problem-solver and educational advisor for art institutions in Asia and beyond. Visit his website at http://www.momentarium.org/ to learn more.