In April 2016 Nessie Reid created The Milking Parlour: a performance based public exhibition exploring the values we hold towards our food and farming systems, and examining the environmental implications industrial agriculture has upon our planet.
To explore this in greater depth, Nessie chose the medium of milk: something once hailed as a superfood – providing 34 % of our RDA of protein – now undervalued, and often cheaper to buy than bottled water.
Nessie lived with two pure-bred Guernsey cows in Bristol City Centre for 5 days and 4 nights, constructing a temporary milking parlour, free and open to all. The intention of taking two cows out of their usual context (the farm) and into an urban environment (Bristol’s busy harbourside) was to spotlight the disconnect between the cities we live in, the food we eat and the milk we consume on a daily basis.
The Milking Parlour is an on-going Cape Farewell artist residency based in the UK and is currently touring as a ‘dry’ show, picking up stories and experiences around our relationship to food along the way. Cape Farewell is an international programme bringing together creatives, scientists and informers to stimulate a cultural narrative to communicate the urgency of our global climate challenge.
The purpose of the Bristol ‘live-in’ was to demonstrate the often arduous and challenging processes involved in producing an everyday product like milk: something we rarely think twice about as we scan the supermarket shelves. The idea was initially inspired by The Sustainable Food Trust’s 2013 True Cost Accounting conference, coupled with a moving talk at the Oxford Real Farming Conference about milk being cheaper than bottled water, where Nessie decided milk was the ideal lens through which to talk about the true (and hidden) social, economic and environmental costs behind our food and farming system.
Nessie’s research (November 2014 – on-going) is being recorded via the Dairy Blog and Gallery. For a detailed introduction to the project, watch The Milking Parlour Intro film. The Milking Parlour is currently hosting talks, workshops and cheese-making demonstrations throughout the UK – using these events as platforms to delve deeper into our relationship with food, farming and the land we walk upon.