Mimi Ọnụọha: 40% of Food in the US is Wasted (How the Hell is That Progress, Man?)


Mimi Ọnụọha’s 40% of Food in the US is Wasted (How the Hell is That Progress, Man?) is an interactive video composed of archival video clips from the 1950s–1980s, drawn from the Prelinger Archives and the United States Department of Agriculture (USDA). Advertising the technological optimism of big agriculture, the sampled footage and audio betray a narrative of agricultural systems geared towards ever-increasing production and yield rather than equitable distribution. The artwork’s title emphasizes the reality of food waste, referencing the USDA’s own estimates of 30–40% of food waste and questioning the message of its promotional videos. The presentation of the video clips in a repetitive grid formation that can be advanced by viewers through continuous clicking amplifies the redundancies built into the process of automation. Jules Faife’s accompanying music drives the narrative and pulls the viewer into it, but Ọnụọha also works against the score and archival audio, breaking up their momentum by inserting the question “How the Hell is That Progress, Man?”

Retrospectively, the archival videos function as a reality check to the solutions they proclaim, revealing practices that would be considered problematic by today’s standards. Documenting the demographics of the people working in the fields, at the conveyor belts, and in roles of oversight, the footage openly displays systemic conditions of production and labor. 40% of Food in the US is Wasted (How the Hell is That Progress, Man?) continues Ọnụọha’s practice of interrogating and exposing the internal logics of technology-driven progress.

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Mimi Ọnụọha (b. 1989) is a Nigerian-American artist creating work about a world made to fit the form of data. By foregrounding absence and removal, her multimedia practice uses print, code, installation and video to make sense of the power dynamics that result in disenfranchised communities' different relationships to systems that are digital, cultural, historical, and ecological. Ọnụọha has been in residence at Studio XX (Canada), Data & Society Research Institute (USA), the Royal College of Art (UK), Eyebeam Center for Arts & Technology (USA), and Arthouse Foundation (Nigeria, upcoming). She has spoken and exhibited internationally at venues like La Gaitê Lyrique (France), FIBER Festival (Netherlands), Mao Jihong Arts Foundation (China), and Le Centre Pompidou (France).


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