On display at Fovea Exhibitions in Beacon is Douglas Gayeton’s multimedia project, “The Lexicon of Sustainability” — photographs and short films that aim to educate people to pay closer attention to “how we eat, what we buy, and where our responsibility begins for creating a healthier, safer food system in America,” according to the exhibit description.
Presented by Fovea and Common Ground Farm, “The Lexicon of Sustainability” will be on view until Jan. 20, with an open panel discussion on the exhibition at 5:30 p.m. Saturday.
“‘The Lexicon of Sustainability’ is based on a simple premise,” according to the exhibit’s website. “People can’t be expected to live more sustainable lives if they don’t know the most basic terms and principles that define sustainability.”
For the past three years, Douglas Gayeton and his wife, Laura Howard-Gayeton, have crisscrossed the United States to learn this new language.
"‘Sustainability’ is a really misused term,” Douglas Gayeton said. “(It) really begins with being more aware of what’s local to you. When there’s no connection on a personal level, there’s no real sense of meaningfulness or accountability.”
The Gayetons live on a farm near Petaluma, Calif. His work as a filmmaker, photographer, writer and lecturer has been shown on the Internet and television. Laura Howard-Gayeton is the founder of Laloo’s, the first goat-milk ice cream company in the country.
“The Lexicon of Sustainability” is not a boring textbook rendition, either. By combining photography, narrative and video, the multimedia project engages audiences to experience sustainability in a new way, Douglas Gayeton said.“(Maybe) we could create content that would get people much more engaged,” he said. “I’m not an expert, but the one thing we’ve found during this project is that you’re much more likely to have ideas resonate if you’re reading them through the image.” According to the exhibit website, “nearly two hundred leaders in food and farming from across the country have contributed ... experiences to ... ‘Lexicon of Sustainability.’ ”
These insights have been translated into informational art, photo collages, a series of short films and pop-up shows across the country.
“The Lexicon of Sustainability” project currently showcases 24 environmental terms, all of which are depicted through various forms of media.
“There’s (an) impact in showing a still photograph in an environment where people walk by it, see it,” said Fovea Exhibitions co-director Stephanie Heimann. “They can learn from it rather than being a captive audience.”
Rows of recycled wooden easels line the gallery, each of which depicts a distinctly sustainable image: A farmer tends to his land, young students cultivate an “edible schoolyard,” or residents of a suburban California neighborhood maintain a backyard beehive.
While each image is itself powerful, its message is delivered through the linking of photograph and narrative, Heimann said.
“Both of the mediums reinforce each other in terms of presentin
g its message,” Heimann said. “They both illuminate each other. Traditionally, the caption information is separate or presented with the image. (Douglas Gayeton’s) motive is to convey information with maximum impact.”
Douglas Gayeton’s work includes superimposed words, narratives and illustrations to convey his ideas.
The exhibit also includes three short films on sustainability. Each video can be found online at www.pbs.org, or through the exhibit website.
While the project aims to educate the global community on the benefits of living a “sustainable lifestyle,” Douglas Gayeton hopes his work will engage the younger gener
ations to take action.“I have a 6-year-old daughter,” he said. “I think it’s important to pass on a world to her that’s as preserved, as whole, as capable of regenerating itself (as possible). It’s important to teach younger people and give them this knowledge. They’re the most important ones.”