In April 2013, at Timelab, I was given a facial never experienced before by garden snails that I was later going to eat.

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Photographer: Isabel Allaert

Snail slime is a natural composition based on a glycoprotein with hydrating, antifungal and antibacterial properties, which make sense for a ‘skinless’ creature that spend all it’s time in decaying material. International laboratories are currently suggesting that the slime be used for acne. Other sites suggested snail slime to contain antioxidants, promotes the regeneration of free-radical damage and stimulates collagen production.

The properties of the slime are well-known in the cosmetic industry, as suggested in the popular snail extract face masksBut why leave it to the laboratories and large industries? In our own back gardens, these pests, are often uncontrollable resources.

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What if you could enjoy a different focus of our garden harvests? We could directly consume our miniature plagues. 

Making use of a pest is about being able to bypass large industries, centralised taxes and distribution networks. Joha Huuskonen Open Knowledge Festival joined us for the snail picking. With the help of expert ecologists Geert Heyneman, who showed us how to treat the snails on a diet of flour before cooking in cream sauce which we served to a very hungry, even greedy public at the Timelab Exhibition. These Petit Gris Cornu Aspersum from Southern Europe are the aliens in the eyes of urban ecologists and exotic delights to its consumers.

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The children came to play with the snails. Snail farming, dating back to 10,700 B.C, was the earliest form of meat that we farmed (according to QI). When the younger generations of the exhibitions saw that the smaller snails would have less flesh to eat, they offered to release them and ‘wait for them to grow bigger. Through this, we started to cultivate, and at this moment the ‘pests’ became precious in-demand resources.

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Later in 2013, the snail facial was broadcast by Telegraph for a beauty spa experience in Japan, obviously without the understanding of autonomy, now in the environment of a high-end spa. 

To the maker members of this community, a deeper understanding of our environment is a means to autonomy, whether if it’s food or a frivolous desire to protect our skin. There is autonomy even in a facemask, from garden snails.

Ghent_snail_bath 04:13

Photographer: Isabel Allaert

 

Written by Lisa Ma

Lisa Ma socializes activism. Combining ethnographic research and speculative design, Lisa creates platforms of engagement from surprising insights and processes that deeply resonate with the global technological community. The emergence of clicktivism – to protest at the click of a mouse – is trivializing activism. Lisa argues that although activism doesn’t necessarily benefit from technology, we need to evolve how activism contributes to technological societies. To illustrate this, she designs dilemmas and creates social events that are perceived as activism but function as services.

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