“The Beans” is a new installation by artist, writer and gardener Sean Roy Parker, developed for Two Queens, in association with Stanford Hall CSA. This project explores convivial food growing, permaculture living systems and low-tech resourcefulness as ways of cultivating collective mental and physical wellness in the climate crisis. Parker expands our understanding of what constitutes art materials while testing alternative ways of making, consuming and processing that minimise environmental harm and build interspecies intimacy.
As far back as the early 1600’s Leicestershire people were known by the nickname ‘Bean-Bellies’, alluding to local subsistence farmers’ reliance on this crop that was widely considered animal feed, for their own nutrition. In a book of Leicestershire dialect from 1848, Leicester Words, Phrases and Proverbs, it was suggested that if you “shake a Leicester man by the collar, you shall hear the beans rattle in his belly”, suggesting bellies that contained beans and little else. This project seeks to build upon these historical ties with the land, and suggest how cultural spaces might be more attentive to urgent contemporary challenges, as active sites of enrichment and digestion.
Beans are central to both the exhibition’s ecological narrative and material offering, with varieties gathered from specialist growers, local seed swaps and postal donations from friends. A nursery built from scrap and surplus matter will house a succession of germinations, due to be passed on to neighbourhood growing spaces to mature and fruit over the summer. Assemblages for worm composting and heating seedlings will utilise post-consumer waste collected from online peer-to-peer networks, as well as a collection of live ferments and fertilisers influenced by Korean Natural Farming. Parker will redirect scraps from studio holders towards intentional decay, expanding visible material lifecycles and closing energy loops. As initiated by the artist, the exhibition will be powered with temporary solar panels and rainwater harvesting, installed as Two Queens seeks to transition towards more eco-responsible energy management.
The project is accompanied by a series of public workshops and events including practical sessions on composting, ink making, and producing recycled paper, as well as a panel discussion centering questions of food sovereignty. At the end of the growing season, a community meal will bring the artist together with participating growers to taste the crops and share seeds for the future.
Parker spent a research period living and working at Stanford Hall CSA (Community Supported Agriculture), an experimental farm model in Lutterworth, south Leicestershire, which specialises in growing organic produce, actively building soil microbiology, and providing community training in agro-ecological practices. Here the artist researched the recurrence of beans in historical food traditions and modern subsistence farming, and wrote a new ecosystemic fiction to accompany the installation.
Sean Roy Parker is a writer, food researcher, permaculturalist and visual artist based at The Field, an experimental co-living project and DIY space near Ilkeston, Derbyshire. He practises slow, low-tech crafts and food preservation with consumer waste and natural abundances, and shares extensively through labour exchange, favours and artswaps. In his ongoing project Fermental Health he writes about and leads workshops on the lifecycle of materials, complexities of interspecies responsibility, and collaborative problem-solving through the lens of food justice. He is waiting patiently for the post-capitalist transition.
His writing has been published in WeedsFeed by Sandra Kosorotova for Publics, Helsinki (Finland), Talk to the Garden by Fran Disley for Turnpike Gallery (UK), and Worry, Collect, Fold (translated by Max Weinland) for Kunstverein Luneburg (Germany). He has delivered public research projects on fermenting with microbes for Liverpool Biennial (UK), anarchist solidarity with peasant farmers in Valencia at Pols (Spain), and was most recently artist-gardener at Kreenholm Plants in Narva (Estonia). Roy is a Wysing Arts Centre Resident for 2023-24.
This project is made possible by public funding from The National Lottery through Arts Council England.