A Common Ground, a temporary garden installation designed and fabricated collaboratively as Something & Son, was designed to unpack, deconstruct and propose modes for reconstituting British cultural identity through seemingly innocuous activities. With activities involving food, a safe space was created for socialising, sharing and finding common ground, for participants to begin having comfortable discussions about potentially uncomfortable topics. Elias and team operated on the fundamental belief that a great meal can change the way a person sees the world and, in turn, how they perceive institutions like the Tate and the roles they play in the construction of British art history, culture and everyday life.
By introducing diverse culinary traditions that are deeply embedded in Britain’s social fabric, the project hoped to decolonize British culture in a heartfelt and meaningful way. Locals were engaged in community dinners, cooking workshops and storytelling through food. Most notably, ethnobotanical wayfinding tools were distributed throughout the garden, detailing how vegetables and spices ended up in parts of the world due to the establishment of trade routes and colonization. Weekly events that explored different cuisines were also organized, comprising activities like Korean kimchi making, herbal medicine preparation and Caribbean Ital cooking demos. Working in conjunction with the Ramadan Tent Project, the first ever Iftar dinner was held at the Tate. Over five hundred guests participated in this shared meal and a series of talks in the gallery’s courtyard.
With outreach as its priority, thousands of Londoners who had never been to the Tate before were invited to participate in this holistic programme. At its heart a project for the people and by the people, A Common Ground was developed from close collaborations with local residents, the Tate’s service staff, including those in catering, cleaning and security, and two local Mosques throughout the summer of 2018.