Empire Shops were first developed in 1920s London to teach the British how to consume foodstuffs from the colonies and overseas territories. Though none of the stores ever opened, they were meant to make sultanas from Australia, oranges from Palestine, cloves from Zanzibar, and rum from Jamaica available and familiar in the British Isles.
A public installation by London-based duo Cooking Sections, The Empire Remains Shop hosts a critical programme of discussions, performances, dinners, installations and screenings.
The storefront and upper floor of 91–93 Baker Street features a range of new commissions and existing works that employ food as a tool to assemble new sites and geographies, while exploring origins, destinations and exchanges across the present and future of our postcolonial planet. Visitors to The Empire Remains Shop can taste, buy, or take part in the ongoing programme that will change over the project’s lifespan.
The Empire Remains Shop traces the contemporary history of imperial fruit, sugar, rum, cocoa, spices, and condiments, as well as the economies and aesthetics that emerged from them. It attests the ways in which global food networks have evolved up until today. Through its wide range of contributors, The Empire Remains Shop is a platform to investigate and explore the invention of the ‘exotic’ and the ‘tropical’, shrimp sandwiches, conflict geologies, the financialisation of ecosystems, ‘unnatural’ behaviours, the ecological perception of ‘invasive’ and ‘native’ species, ‘culturally neutral’ food aid, the banana that colonised the world, retiring to former colonies, the construction of the offshore and Special Economic Zones, and much, much more.
The Empire Remains is a long-term research project that began in 2013 to explore the infrastructure and cultural imaginaries established within the British Empire to promote gastronomic and agricultural exchange between home and overseas at the beginning of the 20th century. It takes as a starting the Empire Marketing Board — a British governmental agency that promoted colonial trade in the 1920–30s through fine art, film and graphic propaganda.