Andrea Nones-Kobiakov

Cooking for Change

Whatever That Ground May Be

Venezuelan artist Andrea Nones-Kobiakov’s project radically reimagines urban farming while focusing on family recipes and associations attached to certain smells and tastes.

Andrea Nones-Kobiakov

Based in Mexico City and working with Brazilian chef Manu Buffara as her mentor, Nones-Kobiakov aims to explore our relationship with our surroundings through food with this new type of memory-based urban farm.

Whatever That Ground May Be delves into the essence of food as memory, arguing that ingredients are capable of carrying layers of past lives and pieces of places. The associations we attach to certain smells and flavors go beyond ourselves, sometimes carrying generations of stories and feelings. At the same time, growing what you eat reignites a primal sensation; it changes our mindset as well as our immediate surroundings.

Using a mixture of poly- and permacultural techniques with newer technologies such as hydroponics, Nones-Kobiakov aims to build site-specific permaculture crops. These will in turn create self-sustaining ecosystems that grow specific recipes. This project will start with a selection of close family recipes, allowing sensorial memories to flourish. Her process has so far been more about rewinding than fast-forwarding. A search for pre-industrialized farming technologies allows for better understanding permaculture’s essence: the interconnectedness of all living and nonliving organisms to achieve a more positive, less energy-consuming outcome. In this project, too, geographical location activates several strands of connectivity: it has as much to do with the places that we are no longer a part of as with the spaces we currently occupy.

Andrea Nones-Kobiakov's rooftop urban garden

“As a first attempt at growing recipes, I’ve been lucky,” she says. “The Mexico City valley carries infinite wisdom and tradition in food production. From the milpas  (small-field corps) to the chinampas (floating garden) and the forgiving weather, this city has allowed me to explore recipes and sensations that carry my family’s traditions while learning from the country’s own history and ingredients.”

Nones-Kobiakov will travel to Curitiba, Brazil, for her work-stay with Manu Buffara at the chef’s own garden and restaurant. There, she’ll experiment with the ways in which urban agriculture can expand. “Manu’s work directly impacts her surroundings and that of many families. To see this amount of care being done on a large scale, where it is beneficial to the community and the environment, will be very important in how the project evolves beyond my 18 square-meter space,” she adds.

“The more Whatever That Ground May Be is developed, the more I see it as a way of sharing and interchanging. Stories, recipes, feeling, sensations, ideas, technologies, ways of doing, histories—these all create micro-communities that keep expanding and altering our surroundings and our collective memories.”