Violentine’s Day (what is the price of Love?)

Exhibition, public interventions, graffiti, interactive performances, documentary film screening, and public discussions

Visit the project’s website: click here

Objective

The goal of “Violentine’s Day” is to raise awareness about how our everyday lifestyles are tied into the global economy. Using the means of art to investigate the reality behind Valentine’s Day, this project will make clear how consumption habits in the Global North can have destructive impacts on people and ecologies in other parts of the world. Following the roses sold in Europe back to Kenya, where they are grown, helps us to see how even small consumer decisions can strongly impact the lives of others.
The project will take place in Geneva, Switzerland, Cheminée Nord: Association d’artistes /ex-usine kugler, on 14 February, Valentine’s Day, in collaboration with artists and others from various fields.

Concept

Traditionally, lovers express their affection for each other by offering gifts and tokens. Valentine’s Day is the recognized calendar day for the romantic celebration of Love. On that day, giving is made especially convenient. Cards and flowers are on ready display, and only neglectful lovers fail to purchase some for their beloveds. The red rose, with its long cultural and literary heritage, is the unmistakable symbol of Love.
But where do the roses come from? Who grows them and where? How do they get to the flower stand on the corner? The Violentine’s Day art project investigates these questions. Valentine’s Day is a big business, and hidden within corporate boardrooms and behind free
trade rules are destructive social and ecological costs that the lovers of Europe are seldom asked to think about.

Fresh Cut (a work by Melano Sokhadze)

Most of the roses consumed in Europe come from Africa (primarily Kenya), and are produced in factory farms located next to large freshwater lakes. And yet how can a country like Kenya, one of the largest producers of flowers for export, also suffer from severe food shortages? The Violentine’s Day project aims to generate awareness and discussion about the problematic
aspects of this trade.
Locally, rose production creates many problems for Kenyans. Wages in flower factories are higher than the government mandated minimum wage. However, many health and ecological costs are not reflected in the wage relation. To uncover the real social price of the roses of Valentine’s Day, it is necessary to dig deeper. First, roses need large quantities of water (like humans, roses are 70% water).  Pumping water from lakes diverts available supplies from local small-scale farmers, and desiccates the local environment. Secondly, factory farming requires large quantities of pesticides that contaminate the aquifer and pollute neighboring environments. Finally, rose production is problematic for the workers themselves because of the high concentration of dangerous chemicals in pesticides. Often, workers handling chemicals are not provided with protective clothing, re-entry periods are not consistently respected, and pregnant women have been exposed to dangerous levels of chemicals. In addition, the lack of overtime payments and many other labor problems also directly result from our desire to say, “I love you”. So, one can easily say that the more Western people express their love by buying roses, the more those in exporting countries like Kenya suffer.
“The ecology of terror shows us the path to peace. Peace lies in nourishing ecological and economic democracy and nurturing diversity. Democracy is not merely an electoral ritual but the power of people to shape their destiny, determine how their natural resources are owned and utilized, how their thirst is quenched, how their food is produced and distributed, and what health and education systems they have” (Vandana Shiva, “Water Wars”).
The Violentine’s Day project will debate the question: What we feel and are willing to do, once we become aware of this.

Participants:

Vana kostayola, Valério Belloni, Agata Nowak, Maciej Koper a.k.a. Doctor Koper, Tomasz Hanke a.k.a. DJ Tom Hanks, Anna “diabolic laughter” Kar?owska, Elene Georgia Naveriani, Giorgi Gago Gagoshidze, Dadu Magradze, Orféo, Yael Maim, Maëlle Cornut, Laurence Wagner, Gene Ray, Daniel Stain, Melano Sokhadze. Giorgi Kevlishvili.

For more info about the participating artists, download this PDF file: Violentine’s Day.

This post is also available in: French