Hundreds of items of fresh fruit and vegetables nestled on identical styrofoam trays and vacuum-sealed in glad wrap. Displayed on a vast stretch of black in a pristine, cavernous space. Impossible to look away. It’s a focal point, it’s Art.
The brightest of nature’s colours – lemon yellow, capsicum red, mandarin orange – thrown into high contrast against the deep black display stand and the black plastic trays. Perfect and evenly-sized fruit geometrically balanced underneath the skin tight shiny shiny glad wrap. Nothing short of dazzling. Nothing short of deeply disturbing. As good Art can be.
I’m not in an art gallery though. I’m in a massive, industrial-chic food retail space and I’m freezing and I’m in shock. Driving into Melbourne which I occasionally do, I pass a giant food barn/ deli / cafe that sits high in semi-rural splendour. It’s inviting. One day, this day, it sucks me in.
I’m overwhelmed by the choices on offer. I buy a couple of things I need. On the way to the checkout I see something I’ve seen before but this particular retail rendition fills me with unparalleled despair, simply by sheer scale of it.
Who is buying a beautifully bevelled and sliced half of a pineapple wrapped in bling? Who is buying a tray of four evenly-sized mandarins? Who is responsible? The retailer? The consumer? The times we live in?
I drive home to the lemon tree in the back yard and contemplate what to do about this spectacular abuse of fresh food and Planet that I have just witnessed. Yet again, I remind myself why we all need to be activists now. Why it’s not good enough to just look away.
I’m hatching a small plan for this particular problem. It will be like picking up one piece of plastic from the beach. Stunning in its lack of scope. Stay tuned.