Marguerite Humeau, Weeds

First broadcast 121 days ago

Marguerite Humeau, Weeds

"Weeds" follows Marguerite Humeau's questioning about the upheavals that are shaking the world.
 Shot in London during the lock down, we see the artist surveying her close environment and rediscovering the beings that populate it. A filmed investigation on wild flowers that grow in the interstices of the asphalt, "Weeds" is interested in these plants with their many unnoticed virtues, yet they are signs of the strength and power of life.
The investigation opens with an encounter between the artist and Lucia Stuart, an artist and expert in gathering, who tells the philosophy of the practice of foraging.
The video is followed by an interview with Rebecca Lamarche-Vadel, putting this approach into perspective within the artist's work.

This exploration is the starting point for Marguerite Humeau's residency at the Fondation Lafayette Anticipations starting in November 2020. On this occasion, the public will be invited to participate in several workshops with the artist devoted to the design of poetic and political gardens, in collaboration with numerous high school students and speakers (philosophers, botanists).
Thursday 25 Jun 2020
from 07 pm to 07:50 pm

Marguerite Humeau and Rebecca Lamarche-Vadel


Marguerite Humeau (b. 1986, FR) lives and works in London, UK.
She received her MA from the Royal College of Art, London, in 2011. Solo exhibitions of her work have been held at New Museum, New York, US; Tate Britain, London, UK; Haus Konstruktiv, Zürich, CH; Schinkel Pavillon, Berlin, DE; Nottingham Contemporary, UK; Palais de Tokyo, Paris, FR; Kunstverein in Hamburg, DE; Museion, Bolzano, IT; and C L E A R I N G, New York/ Brussels. Her work has been featured in numerous group exhibitions, including the High Line, New York, USA; Château de Versailles, FR; Kunsthal Charlottenborg, Copenhagen, DK; Centre Pompidou, Paris, FR; MAMVP, Paris, FR; Serpentine Galleries, London, UK; Istanbul Biennial, TR; Victoria and Albert Museum, Sculpture Gallery, London, UK; and FRAC Midi- Pyrénées,Toulouse, FR. Marguerite Humeau’s work is part of the collections of MoMA, New York, USA; Centre Pompidou, Paris, FR; Tate Britain, London, UK; Aishti Foundation, Beirut, LB; Zabludowicz Collection, London, UK; Modern Forms, London, UK.
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Artiste et experte en cueillette, Lucia Stuart utilise des aliments sauvages provenant de haies, de forêts et de bords de mer pour créer des plats délicats et délicieux.
Lucia Stuart est écossaise mais a été élevée à Londres. Dans les années 80, elle a étudié les Beaux-Arts pour devenir artiste à Mexico. Puis, pendant dix ans, elle a tenu un café dans le sud-ouest de la France.
Lucia est basée à Deal, dans le Kent, dans une maison de ville géorgienne à une minute de la plage.

Sa société, The Wild Kitchen, a été créée en 2012. "Manger de la nourriture provenant directement de plantes sauvages apporte une certaine magie ; cela rétablit des liens avec le monde naturel & entre eux".
Diplômée en Histoire de l’Art, Histoire et Sciences Politiques de l’Université Paris I - La Sorbonne, Rebecca Lamarche-Vadel débute sa carrière en 2008 au Ministère de la Culture, puis au Musée d’Art Moderne de la Ville de Paris en tant qu’assistante de conservation.
De 2009 à 2012 elle réside à Berlin et participe à de nombreux projets dont l’exposition prospective "Based in Berlin" (2011). En 2012, elle rejoint le Palais de Tokyo où elle passe sept ans en tant que commissaire d’exposition, menant des projets d’envergure tels que la récente carte blanche à Tomás Saraceno, "ON AIR" (2018). Elle y a aussi, entre autres, été commissaire de la carte blanche à Tino Sehgal (2016), de "FOXP2" de Marguerite Humeau (2016), de "Bastards" d’Ed Atkins (2014) et de l’exposition collective "Le bord des mondes" (2015). En 2017, elle est nommée co-commissaire de l’exposition "Voyage d’Hiver "au Château de Versailles. Elle a collaboré à de nombreuses reprises avec des institutions internationales telles que le MoMa PS1, le Stedelijk Museum et Nottingham Contemporary.
En 2019, Rebecca Lamarche-Vadel est nommée commissaire de l'édition 2020 de la Biennale de Riga.



Marguerite Humeau
The world stopped. We had to stay right wherever we were. 
Wherever we were we had to stand right there. 
I was standing right here 
and there was no place to go to. 
It was tough in the first weeks. 
Everything collapsed.
And then
I started to feel this urge to dig.
I want - to know - the territory - on which I stand on right now - really - really well.
So - I dig.

Lucia Stuart
Yes, certainly I can - I can try and condense it into how I became a forager, which is a strange mixing of everything that I love. I had an art background in fine art. And then I ran a cafe in France with some friends. I've got some photos since showed a year.

At a time?

Yeah. So then I spent 10 years in France doing the cafe and. And that was rural France, which the reason I got reconnected to nature and we were, we were just finding food that was around us in this little village. And it was an old French boy that came in, a war veteran, and he came shuffling and he was a bit lonely. And he came shuffling in with plants every day and said, [ "Oh, j'ai ça de mon jardin"] - and so he came in every day with different plants. And gradually I started using them on the menu. And that really - you know - got me going.

I just started walking around.
I want to become a hunter gatherer,
so I hunt food in my neighbourhood.
There are soooo many plants
that we don’t even look at but that grow in profusion.
and so many others that have names that I don’t even know.
Until now I’ve called them weeds or wild flowers.
In French we call a lot of those weeds [“mauvaises herbes”] , “bad weeds”.

I remember there was a key phrase I heard, which was to name something is to love something, and I love nature like we will do. And I suddenly realized that actually who were these little plants? What were their names? And that was a sort of thing that triggered I must start learning them.

Because of intensive agriculture, and the spraying of field edges, and the reseeding of pastures, those “bad weeds” have had to make their way to the fringes - out of our lives.

So I look for the overlooked, the abandoned beings, the ones that are everywhere but that we never notice.

I look on it like a magic. So you've got normal food, like the basics. And then you want to make it magical. So if you make a ["tarte"] / tart -you know- you make it magical by sprinkling on. You pick it - you know - that kind of thing. Or you might flavor the pastry with the ground up seed. So I think what it is is it's - you know - eating normal food, but then adding in a third of magic.

Native plants from our lands have been marginalised like waste. They are swept away until they disappear.
They are now in the ditches, on the roadsides, at the peripheries, borders and edges.
They are the last remnants
of the lands native populations of plants.
We have evacuated them from our lives because they are “wild”.

I think. Yes, it is this key combining of - a key combining of who I am. I think it is me manifesting and in all the things that make me up. For instance, I do genuinely hate waste. And so we were just talking about- you know - the fact that there was all this food that's not eaten. You know, I don't like over consumption. I think I'm a bit rebellious. It's a way of saying I can survive without the world - you know - I don't need that. I aesthetically - you know - smell, taste, vision, you need to be extremely visual to do it. So I think, there I was being a chef, loving really good ingredients, and then walking on the beach and thinking, well, look, the seaweed must be eaten. It must be eatable. And then realizing that I kind of I could create your food from it. I mean, it's hard to define, really.

And also, I think I really like the idea of the niche things - things which no one else does - you know. I remember my stepfather saying early chair. Many people are popularizers, but you're an originator. And this idea of originating things that other people don't do. I think that's also very much me who I am. I've always done things people don't do. But like artists, we do things. And also like artists. You're trying to desperately to communicate vision and love. 

We are so ignorant and we are sitting on piles and piles of delicious free food.
What if those bad weeds were wonder-weeds. A lot of them can heal, help us get better and support our immune systems. That’s why I wanted to talk with Lucia.

I think as a forager, you sort of want to welcome people into the in-depth world of plants and you have to say this is what they can do to people. Experts just say when the tide is out, the table is late. Seaweed down here is called Pepper Dulse, and it's very, very Pepper Dulse, it's very juicy at the moment and it's probably the most flavorful seaweed.
In the sea, it's floating. But at the moment, it's quite young. There's not very much of it. 
This is Dulse.

I learnt recently that in 1898 Rudolf Diesel had discovered a way to get a motor running with vegetable oil including micro alga and groundnut. He had invented an infinite virtuous energy circle that was abandoned and instead we started to use fossil fuels like petroleum.

So it shoud be taking that back, putting it in the oven with a truffle oil and make it some seaweed crisps.

Yes. Yes. Yes. You can't help it because again, it's a bit like a painting. The more you have this material, the more you push it. I never stop finding out what it does to the plant. I'm just trying to count. My mind's gone. Gonna think of an example. The more I use these plants, the more I just think, oh, my goodness- you know - they're so - they keep on delivering. And even the color, for instance, back to the dandelion flowers, I thought I would cut off all the petals and then make a powder, a bright yellow powder. So I'm leaving the food to taste and going to the color. And then you could even capture the smell and then you can do the medicinal side. And it's just over.

I have been so many dandelion flowers the past two or three weeks, millions and millions of them. I've collected them for tea and these biscuits where I need 50 dandelion hats. This will be my last chance to collect them that we're all going to see now. You can actually see the reason they're home to so many insects now towards the end of their flowering, they get many more insects. But I shall get the last load.

Maybe we could talk about those ones that you love ‘cause I found them everywhere as well.

Yeah, they're fantastic, aren't they. Yeah. So those are the ones I was cutting off the petals. And you're trying to make a powder yellow powder. But these, they're wonderful. They're incredibly medicinal. And they found out that the flowers are even more medicinal than the leaves, which is quite unusual in plants. And they did a thing where they wondered why cattle were going into a fields and eating, going straight to the flowers, you know, because cattle - you know - they might they wouldn't know the difference, would they? But actually, it is all the nutrients in there, and they just love their. So, yeah, those are wonderful. So those are the dandelion flowers heads, the little yellow heads.

I have had this thought about living my life, 
While constantly drawing a line 
between the Earth core and myself, 
as if I was attached to our planet inner centre. 
So I scan, I excavate,   
Or I simply listen to, 
everything that this line is going through: 
ancient knowledge,
and buried voices, 
past and future flowers, 
unofficial and unwritten histories,
unheard presences. 

So when you say medicinal, what exactly do they ill?

They've got anti costergenic, anti inflammatory and anti viral. Yeah, but just about everything. I mean, I've literally got a book. I mean, there's nothing that plant doesn't do -you know- vitamins. I mean, literally just everything as a overall medicine cabinets. So when I was using them to cook with, I pick the flower heads and then I just put them in the mixer with flour, with white flour and just mixed into the flour. And then then I would make my best guess, put, you know, orange peel. I put a bit of orange peel and flavorings in that, because the flavor is honey ready. So what you could do right now, take off the flower heads, boil the kettle, pour boiling water from the kettle…

So do you keep the green thing?

Yeah. You can do, the green gives a little bit of bitterness. The green is call receptacle. No, the sepal I think. So you can keep that on and just pour put maybe five or six in a glass. Boiling water over and leave it and then got tea. And that tea would be very soothing and would be a lovely thing to drink. And I've got a friend who's very ill with inflammation and I bought her a jar of these dried for her to take one glass a day, so they are great.

Beautiful big powers of fragrant lilac. Let's just come out. So I'm going to forage just a couple of branches of these hanging flowers.

That's what I was wondering is when you forage, do you mostly think about taste or do you also think about the specific properties of rich plants? And, for example, healing properties or other properties that they might have?

I think about the big picture for us. Quite a big picture. And then, I mean, occasionally I'll go out thinking I need to have some nourishment because Cobus around some medicinal- you know. For instance, spring is a good example of thinking. Yes, I am going to think about health because we just had winter and some of the plants are very, very good for keep sort of nourishing us after winter like nettles. So occasionally I will gather for health. But I think in general, it's for a particular objective, like a wild food banquet or like storing for the freezer because of plants about to finish, like the garlic.

These are the flowers from the wild cabbage, and they taste very, very good. They taste like cabbage that's been sweetened. That's a fantastic flower, this one.

All plants indicate something about our Earth health condition. Docks and buttercups grow on asphyxiated soils, thistles show an excess of nitrite, reynoutria indicate heavy metals, tansies and groundsels grow from ashes; datura, euphorbia, hemlock, cocklebur feed on chemicals, synthetic products or fossil fuels. Some plants heal, others auscultate the soil and send us silent cries for help.

So those ones were everywhere?

They are beautiful, yes.

And they're always funny for me because, you know, I'm call Marguerite and in French “marguerite” is like the bigger version of those and my brother to make fun of me when I was a kid, he called me "pâquerette" which is the name of those little one.

Could you break one of the leave off and put it in your hand like that. So I can have a look. I wonder what... I think it is it is oxeye daisy. But it's in a kind of interim phase. I'm pretty sure. Oh yeah, that looks like it. Yeah, I think I'm pretty sure it's a Marguerite oxeye daisy. Yeah. And it'll they'll keep the thing is that plant is incredibly gross so much. I think it will keep growing. It'll grow up to. Yep. A big, big size. And then it really blows in the wind. But they are wonderfully edible. You could chop them up in salad.

Jack by the hedge - the leaf tastes of garlic and mustard.

And I think what it is, is you have to be really true to yourself. And so it just comes out. And I remember sometimes they said, " ah, it's nice to have a feminine side of foraging because you're foraging very feminine." And then some of them are very much tactical and technical and quite nerdy about mushrooms. And some of them are quite physical and they do pick barbecue. So with me, I'm definitely and I think my one is definitely a lot of drawing and visuals and it's mixed up with a lot, a lot of aesthetics my one. All of us foragers have a different approach. So yeah, I would describe my approach as very ascetic based. It's definitely got a French love of restraint, which I put down to France a wonderful way of preparing food with one ingredient. Many foragers, they just have all these plants and they make - I had a friend who made a powder, green powder with 150 different plants in the powder - that is what some of that would do, that extraordinary, you know. So but with me, I'd rather have one plant like Dandelion and do trillions of dishes with it, rather that way round. And I think that is a French way.

This is sea beet, which is a kind of king of wild spinach. Yes, it's very delicious. And when I always teach about the shininess of the leaf, then you can really see that here now how the sunlight bouncing off the leaf.

I resist
the denial
of our soil
as a living entity.
90% of beings, alive, on the planet, are in the soil.
Everything on the surface, plants and trees and everything else, is just a support system for the
soil to be kept alive.
We are also giant ecosystems,
our bodies are covered
and made of
other species
bacteria and other tiny organisms.
Flora and fauna - are- our bodies. That’s why we call it the human biome. We’re like the soil, a living organism that also needs to be explored.

So that's some, that's sort of one of these things where we pick plants. We have to look at the shape of the stem and then it should be a little rich because those plants that it's a little bit over a dangerous family, that family of plants, because there's so many - well not dangerous - but it's just technically difficult, the umbrella. I wish I could chat of all the family of plants and benefits accordant. And it's enormous and there are not many, but there are a few toxic ones in that family. I'm pretty sure that it's a beautiful cow parsley. And when it is adequate, it should smell very lovely smell. If you break / open the stem - it's not the stem! - and inhale the fragrance is release. Is it smell lovely, sort of quite like sweet, a bit like that? Is it lovely?

Yeah. It's really nice.

You see that's what I would do if you wanted to check if it was wild chervil. And then when it's young, you chop up that stem and eat it. 

During this time I became aware of the seasons and micro-seasons within them. One day elderflowers blossomed and a few weeks later they would die and leave space for ox-eye daisies to reveal themselves, they are the most precise calendar that has ever existed.

Now that's called green alconut. And they believe that it came from monasteries in Europe because it was always found growing around monasteries. Possibly they used it for it die. Because the Latin names from ana. So that's kind of its early uses, but with me, I eat the blue flower. That is beautiful in salad. Beautiful. And also in ice cubes, I put these in ice cubes. And the other funny thing, Marguerite, was lost - yeah, I had a problem with my back and I was in bed and I always look at what's growing. I was staying in somebody's garden hut. And I looked round and they were everywhere. It was last May and I found out I looked up and therefore back healing. That's spring is in the back. Oh, that's incredible.

So you ate them to heal your back?

Well, I rang another forager and I said - because they don't tell you how to eat it if you want to heal your back. It's nowhere - It just says exploring as well - and he said, "Oh, yeah. It's so frustrating" because you don't know how to use them. You know, as medicine, so the result was I didn't know. 

We humans when we are born
we are not completely formed,
so it means that the environment in which we live will constitute the rest of what is still to be
formed. We become it.
When we spray weed killers on food that we grow, the weedkiller is blocking the active principles
that allow them to be alive. These principles are called The shikimates.
We also produce shikimates and they also keep us alive.
So when we spray our food we spray ourselves.
We block ourselves from living.
We kill our hormones, our hair growth. We kill our sexual development, our blood circulation, we
kill our intestines, our nervous systems. We kill our heartbeats, we kill our ability to think. We are dead.

First of all, have a big smell. What's smell like, the rose?

It smells really good.

Oh, good, good, good. Oh, good.

Not from far away but

Oh yeah. Because you can't capture that if it's fragrant, it means there flavor there. So that's a good thing because some roses don't smell. So yeah, the next issue is whether they've had treatment from anything. But if there were a lot there in the park. I mean, again, it's kind of common sense. I don't think they looked like they had any sprays on them or anything. I don't know. Like, what do you feel like eating? There's several options if you use it very dry, you could make a sugar, ray sugar. Just how it then you could sprinkle that on whatever you like because that will last in the kitchen. Or you could take a nice yogurt with it and blend in and then you'd have a rose yogurt, that you could try soaking it in gin. So you could try the bottles up and then put. Try that!. Right. Have a plain bottle of gin and pull up, maybe take maybe three roses and put them in the gin and put the bottle in the sun and wait. I always say you can make rosewater for your skin, make your own rosewater by cutting it in water. Roses are fantastic. They're to do with beauty. Yeah. They've done ancient symbol of making us more beautiful. Yeah. That's the main thing. Beauty and sort of spiritual healing from the rose. Yes. Lovely. Lovely. I think it may be my favorite flower.

I think, again, we've got such an instinct. I have. I've got. It's interesting because this goes into astrology because my sign is Taurus - may - like you too Marguerite

No I am Capricorn. You get along well together Taurus and Capricorn.

Well, we Taurus are notoriously safe. So, you know, everything we do is very safe. So I think like how we walk, how we you know, so I think I'm really safe. And I got the silver instinct. So to answer your question. It's a funny combination between things being very safe about what I eat, but also having this slightly again, of if is poison, I've lived well, like - you know- the wild oysters, I eat it from the sea. Loads, I I love them. And I thought, we'll see one day there is a virus or something that goes into the sea. I don't know. Something anti ecological spill. I sometimes I think, the day that the land is that polluted is today, I don't want to live, that kind of thing. It's almost that connection.

So it’s the 30th of April and the Hawthorn tree is about to have again the flowers. This flower is for May blossom.

I could smell this May blossom before I could even see the trees. This huge aroma of almond. And it starts smelling like almond. 

I'll tell you what I'm gonna be doing tomorrow. Going out. Picking it like this. And I'll be breaking up little bits like that and then pushing them to dry. And then I will have a big jarre, which will be tea, throughout the year. Make it just again, you put a handful in a pot and have tea. And medicinally, this is very, very good for the heart. Every heart, if you have see the berries and the leaves, it's good for the blood. And if you have the flowers and the leaves, it's good for the emotions.

This feels like the perfect tree, too. And foraging with huge significance and optimism and joy and love is brought by this tree. It's the tree of the heart.

Weeds don’t need looking after, they don’t need pruning or watering, they are robust, hardy and militant, and if we humans were to cease to be, they would reclaim their territory at an astonishing speed. They appear in the cracks of the slab that has been poured over Earth and will soon fully emerge from it with vigour and grace.