Richard Ibghy & Marilou LemmensHerber, désherber, installation view, Fondation Grantham pour l’art et l’environnement, Saint-Edmond-de-Grantham, 2020.
Photo: H&S, courtesy of the artists

From Appropriating Territory to Valuing Agricultural Land

Noémie Fortin
On the eve of the most important legislative project related to Québec’s agricultural territory, the value and valorization of arable land were reconsidered extensively. In summer 2023, the provincial government launched a public consultation with a view to modernizing the legislation that had been protecting cultivated land and agricultural activities for forty-five years. Voices across the political sphere have risen up either to defend the agricultural vocation of the territory, describing it as an invaluable resource for the food self-sufficiency of Quebeckers, or to advocate for the development of abandoned or uncultivable plots. In parallel with the farmers, politicians, and thinkers debating these issues, an increasing number of artists are engaging in a collective reflection in order to imagine the agricultural landscape of tomorrow.

The appropriation and financialization of land and the tactics used in their pursuit, such as the rezoning of unused land, are sources of interest and inspiration for the artists considered in this essay. In 2020, Richard Ibghy and Marilou Lemmens benefited from a research residency at the Grantham Foundation for the Arts and the Environment, located in a rural area near Drummondville, to develop a body of works related to ownership of agricultural land. Rooted in the Victoriaville region, the project Friches (2023) invited artists to consider unused land other than as plots unsuitable for agricultural production. Throughout summer 2023, Mériol Lehmann, Angela Marsh, Karine Locatelli, and Sonia Reboul intersected in site-specific and gallery interventions, as part of creative residencies and an exhibition at the Centre d’art Jacques-et-Michel-Auger. Together, Ibghy & Lemmens’s works and those in Friches offer a critique of the devalorization of agricultural land for the benefit of financial systems and a sensitive revalorization of it through art interventions that emphasize the affective, historical, and ecological value of land.

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This article also appears in the issue 110 - Agriculture

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