‘Eat the problem’ was the 2013 MoMa theme. All the stallholders used invasive species in their recipes or wares, and we hosted seminars on how to gather or skin and cook them. We erected a sign at the rooster-dumping parking lot (all those foodies with romantic notions get sick of their chickens when they turn out to be roosters) pronouncing HEY TREECHANGERS, DON'T DUMP YOUR ROOSTER! BRING IT TO MONA AND WE'LL PUT IT IN THE POT, over which we encountered much controversy when the vegetarians sent nasty letters to The Mercury (totally fair) and some unintelligent meat-eaters complained about our cruelty to animals, while comfortably eating Chicken McNuggets in their recliners.
Eat the Problem is the act of transforming a flaw into a feature, shit into gold.
I got interested in the idea of celebrating invasive animals while living in Louisiana, a state in America which is being literally eaten into oblivion by an invasive, orange-toothed swamp rat called the nutria. Our crazy Sheriff, Harry Lee, was riding around with his good ol' boys in the back of his pickup, shooting nutria to control their numbers (which had exploded from eight to twenty million after escaping the exotic pet collection of the Tabasco hot sauce family during a hurricane). The government retaliated by offering a bounty of $8 per tail. That's US. But what it meant was that a lot of carcasses were left floating around, not to mention some really nice, guilt-free fur.
At the same time I learned that cat's claw, the invasive vine that is swallowing entire houses and killing everything in its path, is the same herb, una de gato (that's ‘cat's claw’ in Spanish), that cures AIDS and cancer. (Actually I haven't confirmed this with scientists.) That got me thinking that we should have a factory that consumes it all, turning the problem into medicine while simultaneously employing an entire city (with close to the highest employment rate in the US) and redirecting the energy of every crackhead away from thieving copper plumbing and towards harvesting the vine.
So that was the birth of Eat the Problem. During the 2008 New Orleans Biennial I invited artists to use nutria as a medium (Peter Nadin took the bait and made ladies’ undergarments and ornamental pelts of their fur). I tried to set up a barbecue nutria stand and failed.
Turns out Tasmania is full of many other delectable invasive species like the sea urchin (aka 'uni' at your nicer sushi bars), rabbit, blackberry, trout... and humans.
Eat the Problem is a book of ‘recipes’, conceptual and literal, by artists from Mona’s collection, with scientists, thinkers, romance novelists, black metal musicians and others, all using invasive species as medium. It is Mona's cookbook, with a twist.