JelLo-Fi | Gelatinus Vulgaris LoFilia (to give both its common and tongue-in-cheek Latin names) is an installation of Jello, molded in classic 1950's forms and grouped in the grass at the Rubicon Foundation’s Lo-Fi Festival at Smoke Farm, a 360-acre former dairy farm on the Stillaguamish River in Arlington, Washington.
Walking along a woodland path you happen across an outcropping of colorful wiggly dessert in the grass like a strange plant or fungus.
You don't need to know anything more in order to enjoy the installation. But conceptually, the project goes deeper.
It's a bit of Upton Sinclair's The Jungle (about the meat packing industry in Chicago at the turn of the century) meets Willy Wonka.
While Jello is made from rendered cows' hooves this fact is masked by the artificial fruity flavors and cheerful colors and the way it's marketed.
Most people probably don't think too much about where it comes from or what makes it wiggly (I was fascinated to learn it has to do with the triple-helix structure of amino acids that make up the protein and how they trap water).
Meanwhile cows are a problematic element of our agricultural system taking vast amounts of resources to raise, particularly water, and contributing to global warming as well as pollution of rivers and streams.
While it's difficult to find a consensus on the exact figure, the number of gallons of water used to produce a single quarter-pound beef patty hovers in the area of 2,000*. In a year of record high temperatures and drought we continue to suck water out of the Ogalalla Aquifer in part to feed beef cattle, steadily draining this precious, non-replenishable resource.
JelLo-Fi is a gently ironic reference to our general urban disconnection from the source of our food as well as the sustainability of its production and the ecological effects of factory farming, in particular water consumption and depletion.
Here the molded Jello sits directly on the ground near a stream where cows once trod, thus returning the rendered cows' hooves symbolically to their source.
Since the Jello deteriorates in sun, rain and air its absorption into the landscape will become an entropic, transient sculpture that gradually disintegrates.
It's important to me to create a project that works both visually and conceptually; I'm extra-excited to make a work of art that is not permanent but exists as a one-day experience, after which it belongs to the slugs and squirrels and the elements.
The installation will be seen by over 400 attendees of the Lo-Fi Festival over the course of a single day along with works by over 60 other artists and performers.
My project obviously involves some considerable logistical challenges (Jello outside in August!) and on a shoestring budget it will take all of my creativity and ingenuity to make it happen.
But I will. It's important to me to make a work of art that makes its point by surprising and delighting the eye and if it makes people laugh, even better.
Interested in contributing to my project (Jello, Jello molds, other resources) or responding to my idea? Please contact me or leave a comment, I am happy to hear from you! Thanks, Julia