Week Twelve – Farrah

Part One

This first video is Part One of Four in my series The Girl with the Cress. It is an informative video which gives a context to my project, and the environmental crisis which is being caused by the side effects of the pandemic – disposable items such as masks, gloves and plastic wrapping. I felt a video which would give context to my project was necessary as I am trying to raise awareness of the destructive impact that using these items can cause to our planet, and so I wanted this message to be strong throughout the entirety of my project. This was my first time creating a video like this, but I found it a really exciting thing to do.

Alongside the statistics of environmental effects, I displayed photographs I have taken of masks I found around Aberystwyth, with the date and place of collection. This gives a personal touch, making the statistics seem all the more intense and real. The video really serves as an introduction to my project, to make people understand the subsequent cooking videos and inspire others to find creative uses for single-use plastic.

Part Two

Part Two of my project is where I will be preparing the ingredients for my soup; cutting the cress, chopping the onion and garlic, and measuring out the stock, orange juice and yogurt. I have wrote a script for this part which I will be reading out live over the pre-recorded video:

To be said whilst cutting the cress – 5 minutes

I will be making a simple soup from garden cress. The soup tastes fresh and healthy and can be eaten hot or cold. I will show here how I prepare my ingredients before cooking the soup. I first need to cut the cress from each individual mask pot – the recipe requires about 85 grams of cress. It is so easy to grow, it only takes about a week and a half to grow to this length. The best conditions for the cress to grow are on a windowsill, neither too hot nor too cold. They need sunlight and daily watering. You do not even need soil to grow cress, although I find it stays fresh for longer if you do – you can grow it from cotton wool or kitchen roll.

Each mask pot and their grown cress has become an individual to me; I feel that together we have trespassed the boundary between the gardener and the produce, or even the artist and the art, and have become my family. I feel like their guardian, looking out for them, caring for and protecting them. Each one is its own character, with its own backstory. I rescued this mask from Alexandra Road in October; it was lying on the curb side, curled up into itself against the wind and rain. After a hot bath and some disinfectant, it was ready for its next cycle of life. Plumped up with soil and laden with seeds, the cress grew well and tall, proving its worth.

I have a soft spot for this mask, it was rescued from Penglais Hill in November, it could have been thrown away carelessly by a student returning home – they may not have thought it important enough to bring back with them. I did.. I saw its potential immediately. The cress required a bit more nurturing than the others, a bit more water and light. Eventually the cress and the mask became one, it caught up with the rest of the family and grew just as big as them. Every one of these masks is special, they each have their own personality, their strengths and weaknesses. They do not deserve the way they have been treated, to be used once and then cast away, not even disposed of correctly but abandoned on the road alone.

I chose to use face masks to grow the cress from as I have seen so many littered on the streets. They became part of the natural detritus, mixed in with the fallen leaves of Autumn. It inspired an idea to transform the masks from waste products, to something with a purpose, to grow from.

To be said whilst chopping the onion and garlic – 5 minutes

Now it is time to prepare the rest of the ingredients for the soup. I would use about half an onion if I wanted about 2 portions of the soup, use a full one if you’re making it for four. Definitely use a brown onion for this, you really want the strength of flavour to come through. I would dice up the onion quite finely, but as the soup is blended after cooking, I would not worry too much about it.

There were three stages to my transformation – finding the original masks, making the pots and then growing the cress from them. In each stage, the original mask became more special, a part of a team, and now cannot be seen as distinct from the grown cress – they have become one. I decided I would limit the masks I would use to gathering them from only around Aberystwyth. I felt this would be a good investigation into how much waste I could actually find on the floor in a small town over a short period of time. I found nearly a 100. This was an incredible amount to find – all of these I photographed, and most of them I collected – it was difficult to collect all of them as sometimes I did not have a glove and a separate bag on me.

I wonder if any of you have seen masks littered on the floor; do you find it just as annoying as me? Usually I would pick up any rubbish I see, protecting the environment, but it is so worrying now as you do not know whether things are holding the virus!

After the onion is prepped, move onto the garlic. Garlic isn’t necessary for the soup, but I find it adds an extra layer of flavour, and that is what you really want to do with a soup – build up the dimensions of flavours. I would crush the garlic first using the side of a chef’s knife, and then peel off the skin. This way all of the lovely garlicky flavours are released. Then I would roughly chop it; like with the onion, as the soup is blended, I would not worry about getting it as finely chopped as possible.

I uploaded each photograph of the masks I found onto my blog; this has become a sort of memorial to the pandemic, the selfishness of humans and our extremely limited collective respect for the environment. Nature has underpinned my project throughout; I have found it so exciting watching my cress grow, starting from nothing but seeds. It is so interesting how some have grown faster or taller than others; all the pots are made from the same fabric materials, they were all kept on the one plinth together, they all face the sun and are watered the same amount each time.

To be said whilst measuring – 5 minutes

The next stage for the soup is measuring out the rest of the ingredients to add whilst cooking. As I was describing before, I find nature so exciting, yet so terrifying. We rely on it heavily, but can we really trust it? There are endless possibilities with nature and so much can go wrong so easily. I think it makes you value nature more when you begin to grow something; it makes you realise how important it actually is to our lives.

Preparing the ingredients first makes it easier for when you start cooking, as everything is all ready to be added and used. I would start with boiling water for the stock. Use a kettle to boil the water – it is much easier. Whilst I wait for the kettle to boil, I will measure out the rest of the ingredients. This recipe uses orange juice; this seems a strange ingredient for a soup but it really works well with the tangy cress; giving it a beautiful fresh taste. I would use a half cup of orange juice. Once the water is boiled, measure about a cup of water and add a stock cube – chicken or vegetable – I am using a vegetable cube. Give the stock cube a stir to fully dissolve in the water. This way you don’t get any lumps and the flavour is distributed evenly.

Also measure the yogurt – cream could be used if you do not have yogurt available. I would use a quarter cup. Remember all these measurements are for two portions, double them for four. Even with my small amount of cress that I am growing, I feel the importance of it – my project relies on it. It is so hard to imagine being a farmer who has this pressure tenfold for the growth of their crops; their livelihood relies on it. I was nervous for my little seedlings at first, but now I am so proud of them – they have flourished and grown and are now part of a beautiful dinner for me.

Please join me again later in Part Three, where I will show how to cook the ingredients, and discuss more about my project.

Part Three

Part Three of my project is the pre-recorded video of myself, cooking the ingredients I have prepared earlier to make a cress soup. Again, I will be doing a live voiceover of this video with a script:

To be said whilst frying the onions:

Hi everyone. Thanks for joining me back again. I will now be cooking the ingredients for the soup, which is made from my grown cress. For any of you who missed my first show, I will shortly describe what I am doing. Here I am first heating up some vegetable oil in a saucepan. I would use about a tablespoon of oil, and just let it warm the pan up. Once it is hot enough, tip your onions inside and give them a stir. Let them cook for five minutes, stirring occasionally so they do not brown – they just need to soften.

In the previous show, I showed how I prepare my ingredients for my garden cress soup. I am using garden cress which I have grown using pots made from disposable masks. The masks I had collected from around Aberystwyth – whenever I walked to the shops, to the university or around the town, I brought with me a pair of gloves and a separate bag to collect and photograph them. Transforming the masks into pots to grow cress from is a reaction to the environmental effects of non-degradable masks; the way that they have no life cycle – they are used and disposed of afterwards. Growing something I could eat, using my mask pots as containers seemed a natural progression as gardening and living sustainably has become a driving force in my life during the pandemic.

I don’t know about you, but I find it so confusing why people would buy and wear disposable masks, when re-useable ones are so easy to buy, or even make yourself from old clothes. I initially assumed this was because they were more effective, due to being designed specifically, but after researching it, this is not the case. There has been research which has proven that they are both as effective as the other, at preventing virus loaded droplets from escaping the mask from the mouth and nose.

A surgical mask is usually made up of three layers. The two outside layers are made from a non-woven fabric, often a paper material. The middle layer is made up of a melt-blown polymer; this acts as the filter which stops microbes from entering or exiting the mask. Don’t forget to add the garlic in to the soup after the onions, and let it soften with them. The garlic does not need as long in the pan as the onions, as they can catch and burn quickly. You should really be able to smell all of the brilliant flavours right now. The fiber material in the middle layer of the mask is often made of microfibres with an electrostatic charge – this filter acts by forcing the smaller particles to veer and hit a fibre, rather than escaping straight through the mask, therefore increasing protection. Surgical masks are not designed to be washed – it can damage this middle filter layer, significantly reducing their protection against spreading the virus.

To be said whilst adding the cress, stock and orange juice:

Once the onions have softened, usually after about 5 minutes, its time to add in the rest of the ingredients. First I’m going to put the cress in, and just give it a bit of a stir to mix with the onions. Then pour in the stock, and the orange juice. I’d leave it to simmer for about 5 minutes; its tricky to get the temperature right as you don’t want the soup to boil, but you also need all of the flavours to really meld together in the pan.

It’s really easy though; it’s such a simple soup that is really healthy and you could even go further and grow your own onions and garlic to go in it, as well as the cress! I grew so many onions over lockdown, it was so exciting digging them up and seeing which ones grew and which ones didn’t.

There has been so much chop and change with the guidance on masks during the pandemic. I remember when it started the general advice was that we should not wear them. I never did until I had to, but then again, I did not leave my house much during the first four months of the pandemic. I wonder if anyone else wore them before they had to, please let us know your experiences in the chat!

Even once masks were brought in as the law to wear them inside shops, restaurants and on public transport, the guidance was still mixed and quite confusing. There was a minefield of differing opinions about the wearing of masks to prevent the spread of the virus, the biggest one being that they gave people a false confidence, stopping them from social distancing. Barely any governments from around the World actually stepped in and encouraged people to make their own masks, or buy reusable ones – perhaps if they had then we would not be in this devastating environmental crisis right now!

It is so saddening that all the progress the World had made with limiting our plastic usage seems to have disappeared, it is like we have taken about a thousand steps back! Aside from the environmental effects, of which there are many, there have been other effects due to the reliance on disposable masks. Hospitals around the World have seen a shortage in their supplies of surgical masks – this is absolutely ridiculous as they are completely necessary for hospitals, but not for a quick pop into the supermarket.

Some countries actually banned the selling of surgical masks to other nations; perhaps there would have been less of a problem if banned altogether for sale to the general public. It deeply concerns me that throughout my project, when talking to people about the devastating environmental effects caused by single-use items, a lot of people are unaware of the consequences. In my conversations with people, I have found that some people use them despite knowing their negative effects, I would like to think they have a reason for this other than that they do not care.

To be said whilst adding yogurt, blending and seasoning:

Once the soup has finished simmering, it needs finishing off with a few small details! First take a stick blender – this could also be done by pouring it into a blender or food processor. Then blend the soup! It is up to you how much you want to blend the soup, whether you prefer to have a bit of a bite from the onions, but I find the cress quite stringy and think it tastes better when smooth. Once you have blended the soup, add the yogurt, give it a stir and finish by seasoning with salt and pepper, or even some chilli flakes!

Cooking this soup has really made me reflect on how important and valuable it is to limit our usage of single-use plastic. It often feels inescapable to completely stop using it – throughout cooking I have found it in the bottle of the oil, the yogurt container, the packaging of the onion. By making one change to my life, growing the cress from the disposable mask pots, I have grown my own food, and also found a creative cycle for an otherwise non-sustainable product.

Having grown my own cress, it also makes me ponder the other ingredients I have used. There is such a high demand for everything, and this comes at a cost to the environment. With my own soup, I have used oranges from abroad, and dairy in the yogurt. Is it possible to make everything we do sustainable? I would love to continue thinking of other uses for disposable masks, and other single-use items that would otherwise be thrown away. If anyone has any ideas or tips, please share them in the chat – it would be a wonderful thing.

Please join me again where in Part Four, I will be eating my soup that I have made.

Part Four

Part Four of my project will be a livestream of myself eating the soup which I had previously made. As it will be live, I have no pre-recorded videos of this. I have rehearsed this as much I think necessary – I do not want to lose the natural element to the concept – eating my dinner as I always would. I plan to ignore the camera, and just focus on my soup, eating, reflecting, checking the time – anything I would already do when having my dinner. I look forward to everyone eating along with me in the Winter Show.


The Winter Show Online Exhibition

Before the Winter Show I felt very nervous. I was worried about the potential glitching and lagging that seems to go hand in hand with any online video call. I did not want it to detract from the work as I felt so proud of everything that myself, and the others had achieved. However, once I had relaxed and come around to the inevitability of it, I realised that we were all in it together and people have become accustomed to seeing through the glitching. As I was part of the curating time, I was able to help organise the schedule and timings of the Show. We named each episode, Chaos, Meander and Flow. This felt like a good way to celebrate rather than ignore the potential glitching of the online show.

I loved the way that during the Winter Show, each person had their own moment to shine. This could have been in the form of a two-minute piece, or a 45 minute one. I felt the format of the webinar was successful as people were able to drop in and out of the show, depending on what they were doing that day. I made sure I popped in and out regularly throughout the day, as when I was away from the show, I felt like I was missing out.

I truly enjoyed the way that everyone seemed to respond to nature in their own way. It felt like a journey throughout the different pathways one could take; at times the works felt thrilling, and others were more reflective. I could honestly say I preferred no one to the other, each was deeply interesting and held my attention.

In my first segment in the show, I felt extremely scared – I wanted people to understand my project and be interested in it. I immediately got very positive feedback in the chat, which put me at ease for the next three parts. By Part Four I felt much more confident. I loved sharing my work with everyone in the show; it was important to me to be able to raise awareness of the issues I have been exploring in my project. I felt it held everyone’s attention even with the breaks in between parts, and everyone understood my concept.

At the end of the show, I felt really emotional. We had a panel discussion where each of us who had participated in the show, and some guests/attendees reflected on the show. It made me realise the impact of making a show in these unprecedented times. I saw how valuable an experience it truly was – in a time where no art exhibitions are running, it felt great to be a part of something which carried on despite adversity. I also had some amazing feedback from a few of the guests who had watched the show, describing how my project is completely necessary, relevant and important in todays society.


Reflection on Project

I have immensely enjoyed my project this Semester. I felt in control the whole way throughout, and I truly felt like my project was important and relevant to raising awareness of the environmental impact caused by disposable plastic.

I used the blog to research, reflect and experiment with new ideas; seeing my progress clearly week by week allowed me to think of new concepts, understand what worked well and what elements needed more practice. In the future, I would continue to use this practice of updating a webpage weekly as it seemed to work well for me. It became a discipline, updating my blog week by week.

The driving force behind my project stemmed from an urge to raise awareness of the increase in the use of single-use plastic due to the pandemic; I felt strongly about this during the lockdown and felt the need to respond to it. I had seen people using hand sanitizers in miniature bottles, plastic wipes to sanitize, plastic gloves and surgical masks. All these items could have been sourced more sustainably, such as re-useable masks or a damp cloth instead of a disposable wipe. The specific idea for my project began when I noticed many masks littered the streets – I could not begin to comprehend how destructive this would be for the environment. Talk about adding insult to injury!

I felt I explored new media that I have not previously experimented with before. For example, I explored video techniques and drama when I made my own cooking videos. I also did my first livestream in my final outcome when I narrated my pre-recorded videos, and again in Part Four when I recorded myself eating the soup I had made. I also used gardening as a media. Before doing this module, I would never have considered gardening to be a form of art, but I now realise that everything can be art.

I thoroughly enjoyed creating the time lapse of the cress growing from seed to plant. It was the first time I had ever experimented with any type of stop frame animation, and I would really like to explore it again in my next project. There was something about the jerky movement of the cress growing that I found humorous; as I mentioned in my script, the mask pots and their cress did develop a personality to me, and I think this is evident in the time lapse.

This whole project has given me an insight into a subject area about which I now realise I feel extremely strongly and I would like to continue with and develop aspects of this theme in my next Semester’s work.