In 2017, Brian Griffin was invited to undertake an artist’s residency in Béthune-Bruay, Northern France. He drew his idea for the project he created from the fact that Béthune-Bruay was just ten miles from the Western Front during World War One.
Many people were killed and wounded in the region during the war – some making it back home but others “disappearing into the earth”. On discovering that there is also a McCain oven chips factory in the area, Griffin was struck by the macabre thought that the potatoes they grow there come from the same soil.
During the three weeks he spent on the residency, Griffin photographed both inside the McCain factory and on the former battle sites.
Griffin says: “Around the city, there are massive fields of potatoes, which end up on our plates, McDonald’s French fries, you know. Those potatoes grow in soil where bodies and body parts and rivers of human blood have been buried within the soil! So I decided to spend a day or two in this factory. I saw potatoes coming in large trucks and samples being taken. What happens when the soil which we feed from, is also that which houses the blood of thousands of soldiers?”.
Spud, the informal British word for potato, was also a slang term used to refer to a low ranking British soldiers in World War I.
The project has been dedicated to the First World War by Griffin and ultimately resulted in a book; SPUD published by GOST (March 2018).
26 Oct – 8 Dec 2018
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