granary (series)

The Granary (series) is a contemporary production of model grain storage structures that replicate ceramic granaries produced during the Han Dynasty in China (206BC–220AD). These Han ceramics known as mingqi were originally produced as funerary items intended for the dead to use in the afterlife. Mingqi translates roughly into "spirit objects". They depicted objects used in daily life like stoves, latrines, houses and agricultural buildings. Granaries in various forms were common since they "guaranteed continued affluence for the deceased in the afterlife." 1

Now, two thousand years later, these mingqi ceramic granaries resonate culturally as they point toward contemporary food production systems and questions related to food security. We live at a time of increased ecological instability and severe challenges to our ability to sustainably feed a human population of nearly 7 billion. We also live in an age defined by our dependence on petroleum and at a historically significant moment of "peak oil", where diminishing discoveries of new petroleum sources and severe consequences of excessive carbon emissions pressure us toward new technologies and new strategies for meeting basic needs. We are living in a compelling moment to contemplate our transition to post-petroleum living and a compelling moment to consider our strategies for feeding everyone who continues to show up at the dinner table.
Peterman's Granary at the Nathan Manilow Sculpture Park

The Han period is known for innovative modular ceramic production, this granary series, however, is made of post-consumer plastics. The color variation comes from the accidental mixing of plastics during re-manufacture. In addition, much of this plastic is twice recycled having been previously used in a public sculpture "ground cover," also by Peterman, that continues to function as an open-air public dance floor in Chicago. Replaced plastic floorboards showing signs of excessive wear, many having been dance upon for 15 years, serve as primary material stock for granary production. This material, recognizable in many of Peterman's projects, is a petro-chemical marker of the peak oil moment we are living in and of our consumer habits. As with all plastics these granaries are capable of spanning centuries, and being unearthed, like ceramic, bronze and stone artifacts, thousands of years in future. Hopefully, these granaries will carry with them some useful resonance between a long gone agrarian culture and our current ecological dilemma.

1)The mingqi Pottery buildings of Han Dynasty China 206 BC-AD 220, Quinghua Guo, Sussex Academic Press 2010.

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