IN VITRO GARDEN REVIEW
written by Nathalie Seidl ( PR/COMMUNICATION TEAM)
For the inaugural Berlin Food Art Week, NON Berlin organized “In Vitro Garden,” an exhibition featuring works by Uli Westphal, Satoshi Fujiwara and Jimok Choi.
Keeping with the theme of Berlin Food Art Week, the idea behind ‘In Vitro Garden’ was to create an exploration of the process in which food has become the central component of our capitalist economic system. As such, the title of the exhibition refers to the recent increase of in vitro food production methods. Developed as a solution to overpopulation and resource depletion, such methods are at best controversial and at worst a precursor for the future of our society.
The specificity of the exhibition’s title, however, did not apply to the broad selection of artworks displayed at NON Berlin’s gallery space in Mitte. “In Vitro Garden” extended to sculpture, installation, video and photography, all of which considered varying elements of the relation of food to consumerism. Satoshi Fujiwara featured twelve photographs from his “Yen” series, which juxtaposed items found at Japanese grocery stores with the coinage of their monetary value against a minimalist white background. For “In Vitro Garden,” Fujiwara printed the photographs onto the back of newspaper, further emphasizing the exhibition’s consumerist themes.
Uli Westphal displayed “Shelf Life” and three light-box installations from his “Supernatural” series, all of which exploit and criticize the manipulation that the food industry exercises on its consumers worldwide. In “Shelf Life,” a stack of horizontal fluorescent lights immediately recalls the minimalist language of Dan Flavin. The significance of the work, however, lies in the fact the same lights are used in supermarkets across Germany to make various types of foods look more appealing. Similarly, the utopian imagery of the “Supernatural” installations—saturated in vibrant colours and arranged into attractive, mirrored patterns—take the actual marketing imagery of various supermarkets, including Netto, Lidl and Aldi. These images blatantly ignore the harsh realities of today’s industrial food production systems.
At last, Choi’s works explored the motif of an apple using installation, performance, sculpture and video an essential element for life. At one end of the gallery, for example, a white block, smeared with applesauce is imprinted with the artist’s backside. In the sink, an apple is wedged in between the faucet and handle while a constant flow of water is echoed throughout the gallery space, causing an unsettling reaction for many visitors. Choi’s performance for the vernissage went along the same vein: at the centre of the gallery, an apple rested on a thin sheet of black rubber. The artist began by slicing the sheet with a knife, rearranging the pieces and taping the new form back together. Throughout the performance, the apple remained in the middle. Ultimately, the rubber—now scarred with an intricate pattern of duct tape— returns to its original form with the apple in the centre. As one onlooker described, the simple performance seemed to replicate the processes of life: at the end of our lifelong endeavors, we remain the same person, yet marked by our pasts. Another viewer made the connection between the role of the apple in Genesis as a symbol of sin. For everyone who crowded together in the gallery to watch the simple happening come together, Choi’s ability to reconstruct the shape after tearing it apart was a mastery in itself.
Despite the autumnal weather, the NON Berlin team was pleased to see a successful turnout for the vernissage and, as always, enjoyed an environment of thoughtful discussion and, at times, debate which these works evoked.