October 1, 2012

Let's Talk Food. "Hungry City" at Kunstraum Kreuzberg/Bethanien

  • Berliner Cupcake

Where did I get the idea that riding the subway is no fun? I took the subway two days in a row, feeling too lazy for my usual bike ride. Both times exciting things happened. The first time the lady next to me had a poodle on her lap who without warning decided it was time for a pee. The owner took it in stride and laughed it off. The second time I sat down next to a lady with a platter of freshly baked cupcakes on her lap. They looked and smelled so yummy I could not take my eyes off. I ended up buying one of these what must have been a Berliner cupcake because it had a gummy bear on top of it. My neighbor was on her way to the museum island to sell her cupcakes to the art lovers. The money is for an initiative called “cupcakes for literacy”, providing children with learning resources. The Let's Talk Cupcakes!-project, so I checked online, also organizes language lessons – promoted as the tastiest way to learn English. Even corporate team building can be a piece of cake with cupcakes (www.letstalkcupcakes.com).

Sugarhigh I arrived back in my neighborhood Kreuzberg. I actually happen to live in a hood where many people are convinced that with food one can make the world a better place. Food, for example, can surely revive deserted places and tighten the community. Around the corner of my place, in the Eisenbahnstraße, there is Markthalle IX. Built in 1891, the market hall's downfall started in 1997 when ALDI moved in. Merchants could not cope and had to leave. ALDI is still there but in 2009 the neighborhood's residents started an initiative: Markthalle Neun (http://www.markthalle9.de/konzept.html). As a result there is now a market on Fridays and Saturdays with local merchants selling pies, juices, flowers, regional vegetables and meat. The cooking is glocal: veggie burgers, spanish tapas, Berliner Blutwurst. The tables are covered with ecological food and the neighborhood gathers around. During the rest of the week you can still hit Markthalle IX for a five euro dinner at noon. Or you can have a coffee at the central booth, which has been there since 1989, surviving the market hall's harshest times and apparently enduring stoically its recent upgrading. 

Booth at Markthalle IX since 1989

At the other end of my street food meets art: Hungry City, curated by Anna Kersten in cooperation with Stéphane Bauer at Kunstraum Kreuzberg/Bethanien, features art that deals with the significance of food in culture. The nexus of food and art has a long history, food being the perfect object for still live paintings or the ideal material, preferably in decomposed condition, to move the boundaries between art and life. No such thing in Hungry City: Environmental Art, Rural Art and Guerilla Gardening are at the fore. You can follow the food chain of your morning yoghurt personally tracked down by Jekaterina Anzupowa during a worldwide trip. The artist collective Fallen Fruit maps the places where the urbanite can do harvest picking for free in the city. Kultivator shows you how to build a worm tower for your urban compost. A story is told about the breeding of potatoes in the GDR (Åsa Sonjasdotter), farmers in Poland go into great detail about their self-made machinery (ŧukasz Skąpski), and personal tales bring together Croatian and Hungarian milk production (Kristina Leko). You can see happy pigs being fed with acorns (Isa Winkler), a 1982 wheat field in front of the former World Trade Center in New York (Agnes Denes), and a 1970s San Francisco farm project under a highway crossroad (Bonnie Ora Sherk).

Insa Winkler, Das Eichelschwein, 2006. Standbild aus dem Video. © die Künstlerin

Hungry City's accompanying program makes you experience food from a different angle. An evening dinner, for example, was served by Dinner Exchange Berlin, using the leftovers of the city's supermarkets and gastronomy. I happened to wander through the exhibition spaces while dinner was being prepared, its smell rising up. Believe it or not, it was right after my cupcake experience. Needless to say, all my senses were blown. I went home where my roommate Asier Solana was doing some home-cooking – his aim of the week being to cook a different meal every day, leaving out spaghetti. The empanada, Spanish style, was so divine. That's when the music set in: “You have to get a tongue for the taste, it's the kind of food you don't waste / food for your mind and your belly, not when you're in front of the tele / the kind of food that keeps you strong, keeps you balanced all day long / you got to feed up your foundation – information.”


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