17.10.2014 – 11.01.2015
Kuratoren/Curators: Aleksandra Jach and Joanna Sokołowska
Mit/With: Paweł Freisler and Fundacja Transformacja
Featuring: Jimmie Durham, Grzegorz Hodun, Łódź Food Coop, Miejskie Darcie Pierza, Agnieszka Polska and Piotr Życieński.
The project initiated by Antje Majewski and Paweł Freisler focuses on apples as the case study of the issue of biodiversity under threat. It attempts to reveal the mechanisms behind the process of genetic reduction of this fruit, a task, which requires making sense of the complex relationships between global food production and the development of technology, as well as science, and the cultural norms that operate within the framework of the capitalist world-economy. These issues resonate through the exhibition, in the dialogue among the works by Antje Majewski, Paweł Freisler, Jimmie Durham, Agnieszka Polska, and Piotr Życieński. The project involves an exhibition, the planting old varieties of apple trees in the city area and a series of educational workshops.
The exhibition displays Antje Majewski’s images of old apple varieties painted in a style referring to the tradition of still life paintings and a video entitled “Freedom of the Apples”. Commemorating the instances of vanishing biodiversity, the paintings simultaneously problematize the modern desire to identify and systematise the wealth of natural phenomena by means of scientific tools and aesthetic representation. “Freedom of the Apples” deals with contemporary conditions of apple growing. The work reveals how the standardization to which apple production has been subjected since the emergence of the global market of industrial food production, has led to reduction in the amount of apple varieties to just a few types whose growth is reliant on chemical technology and a specific economic and transportation infrastructure. The documentary features Antje Majewski’s interviews with scientists, growers and apple product manufacturers from China, France, Japan, Kazakhstan, Morocco, Germany and Poland concerning the development of particular apple varieties and global food production systems. During her trip to Kazakhstan, Majewski followed the trail of the Malus Sieversii, a wild apple tree, the ancestor of all currently cultivated apple varieties. She collected seeds and a twig for further grafting. Such actions will become illegal after the implementation of the Nagoya Protocol regulating, among other issues, the transfer of genetic resources. The agreement protects many countries from having their indigenous genetic resources stolen, but it simultaneously limits the freedom of interactions among people and plants which has for thousands of years shaped the agricultural landscape on Earth and which led to the apple crossing Kazakhstan’s borders and becoming one of the most popular fruits in history.
The exhibition will also present a dried sculpted apple from the collection of the legendary conceptual artist Paweł Freisler along with the photographic representation of the fruit by Piotr Życieński, its 3D copy, and a 3D printer. Freisler, who emigrated from Poland to Sweden in the 70s, withdrew from active participation in the institutional artistic circuit and reportedly took up gardening. Knowledge of his work exists in the form of mythologized stories based on gossip or individual relationships with the artist. Stories about Freisler have been the source of inspiration for the video artist Agnieszka Polska. In “The Garden” she sketches a portrait of the artist cultivating a utopian garden where all plants so far identified and classified grow. Following Freisler’s trail – that of conceptual art as a space for creating and re-working myths – she speculates on how a meeting with the artist might look like.
The theme of the apple in Freisler’s work evokes “The Egg”, a metal object that the artist produced in 1967 in collaboration with Zamech employees for the Spatial Forms Biennale in Elbląg. It was intended to represent the perfect form for an egg and become a patented model for all eggs in Europe. The work still remains a topical and ironic response to the ideologies of technocratic standardization. The artist’s collection of apples is a result of his long-term engagement in exploring the uniqueness of every single fruit – a living organism in a state of decay. Sculpted bio-objects cannot be stored long in museum depositories, hence Freisler’s decision to immortalise his shrinking and wrinkling apples using 3D printing technology. The large-scale photograph of a dry apple made by Piotr Życieński, reminiscent of Dutch still life paintings and the nineteenth-century artistic and scientific explorations into biomimicry, complements the narrative about reproducing and archiving live matter.
The exhibition also includes bottles of apple juice produced by Jimmie Durham for the dOCUMENTA (13) on an initiative by the curator Carolyn Christov-Bakargiev. The apple juice contained Korbinian-Apple, a variety of apple which Korbinian Aigner, a Bavarian priest active against the NS, cultivated during his imprisonment in Dachau concentration camp. The bottles are linked with 402 water paintings of apples by Aigner exhibited in dOCUMENTA (13). Jimmie Durham planted together with Christov-Bakargiev a Korbinian apple tree alongside an Arkansas black apple tree in Kassel’s Karlsaue Park. He was invited for the design of the apple juice label, in which he plays with European heraldry, iconography and myths. In a conversation filmed and edited by Antje Majewski, shown complimentary to the bottles, Jimmie Durham talks about the apple juice project.
Another element of the project is the Fruity Łódź campaign of planting apple trees organised by Fundacja Transformacja, which specialises in permaculture and ecological design. Together with the residents of the city of Łódź, the Foundation is going to plant 100 seedlings of 13 old apple tree varieties within the city. In contrast to the new, industrial varieties, they are characterized by high genetic diversity, resistances to diseases and a greater ability to survive. Together with the fruit trees already growing in the city, they will contribute to a gene bank by generating valuable seeds. Fruity Łódź is also an action promoting the idea of free access to diverse and healthy food as a common good. The action of planting apple trees will be accompanied by a ceremony involving white voice singing by the band Miejskie Darcie Pierza. There are also workshops devoted to tree planting by Fundacja Transformacja and one on tree grafting by the renowned pomologist Grzegorz Hodun, planned as part of the project, while Łódź Food Coop will be hosting a communal cooking event. A new website (www.owocowalodz.pl) with guidelines on planting apple trees, descriptions of selected old varieties and a map of newly planted trees is about to be released, too. The audience at ms¹ will have the opportunity to gain insight into the materials, books, leaflets, videos and poems – a collection of interdisciplinary knowledge illustrating the relationships between apples, humans and other organisms.