The Spectre of Peasantry: Artist talk and discussion

Vendula Donátová, Radim Kotrba, Jaroslav Pražan, Tomáš Uhnák, Jan Valeška

From the making of Tomáš Uhnák's commission, from the artist's archive

04. 09. 2024 16:00 NGP – Trade Fair Palace – Grand Hall

Length: 04 hours 00 minutes

agroecology peasantry today small farmers

Language accessibility: Czech

Free entrance

In his artist talk, Tomáš Uhnák will give insight into his research for the biennale and share why he thinks it’s important to talk about the peasantry today. Who and where are the peasants in Czechia? The artist talk will be followed by a conversation with experts from research and practice, who will focus on the current environmental and social role of small farmers and the systemic challenges they are facing. How can they work toward the much needed agroecological transformation of the dominant industrial food system? 

16:00–17:00 – Artist talk by Tomáš Uhnák

In The Spectre of Peasantry, his new work for the biennale, artist and researcher Tomáš Uhnák delved into the issue of where the peasantry has “disappeared” since the political and economic transition of the 1990s, curious whether this political identity – once so central to social movements of rural people fighting for their rights and emancipation – still haunts us today. He met with small-scale ecological farmers from across the Czech Republic to talk with them about their current situations, struggles, and aspirations, also asking them how they identify and see their position in society. Do they consider themselves part of the community of 2.2 billion peasants and small farmers working in agriculture globally? What do they think of UNDROP, the UN Declaration on the Rights of Peasants and Other People Working in Rural Areas, which was adopted by the UN General Assembly in 2018, after 20 years of mobilization by La Via Campesina, the international peasant movement that initiated and formulated the declaration? Are the new peasant rights advocated by UNDROP relevant for them?

In his talk, Tomáš Uhnák will share insights into his research and the installation he created for the biennale with his artistic collaborators Asia Dér, Tamás Kaszás, and Asunción Molinos Gordo.

17:30–19:30 – Conversation: Assembling Future Agriculture
Terms such as “local” and “small farmers” have become buzzwords recently, used in different social, political, national, and global contexts. But there are many unanswered questions: Who are these small farmers? How do we even know how many there are if they do not figure in the statistics? What do they produce, and how do they live? Together with leading Czech experts from research and practice, we will look at these questions and discuss pressing issues for small farmers, such as the structure of land use, following the trail from production to processing to distribution to consumption. We will talk about the structural barriers hindering the development of small-scale farming and try to suggest ways to overcome them in order to effect change in the countryside and transition to more sustainable approaches to agriculture.

Both the artist talk and conversation will include a Q&A to make space for questions from and discussions with the public.

Participants: Vendula Donátová (ecological farmer, Platforma Kultivarium), Radim Kotrba (silvopastoral farmer, member of the board of the Czech Association of Family Farmers), Jaroslav Pražan (specialist in agri-environmental policy, ÚZEI – Institute of Agricultural Economics and Information), Jan Valeška (director of AMPI – Association of Local Food Initiatives) 

Moderated by: Tomáš Uhnák