Shopping: Pineapple, Sauerkraut, Wasabi, Chickpea
– a solo show by Elia Nurvista
20 May – 8 July 2023
Šopa Gallery, Košice, Slovakia
Saturday, 20 May, 2 – 3pm
(Free, drop in any time.)
Join us at Šopa Gallery for an open lunch with Indonesian artist Elia Nurvista. The lunch will feature a variety of different ingredients – both local and from other countries and traditions – and it will cater to different dietary requirements. You are invited to experiment and create your own intercultural / (in)authentic dishes.
Saturday, 20 May, 3 – 5pm
(Free, drop in any time.)
Come along and celebrate with us the opening of the exhibition ‘Shopping: Pineapple, Sauerkraut, Wasabi, Chickpea’, a solo show by Elia Nurvista.
The projects featured in this show depart from Elia’s interest in recipes and food as cultural value, where often several nations seem to stake a claim to specific dishes as part of their cultural legacy. However, national pride often fails to reflect on the complex histories and nuanced narratives such as the origin of the ingredients, the route they took to arrive at a specific place, or the cooking methods which may have been brought through the migration of people, including due to war, enslavement and colonization… How can these ‘authentic’ recipes, which might use ingredients from far away places, be juxtaposed with the stories and lived experiences of migrant people?
In the video, “Safeguarding the Curry Burger”, representatives of different nations debate the cultural heritage of an imaginary traditional dish. Since both burger and curry are common recipes around the world, trying to stake claims inevitably leads to a chaotic, and increasingly absurd discussion.
What do we perceive as an authentic recipe? Authenticity as well as national identity is often shaped by who is in power. Likewise, recipes often tell stories of cultural cross-contamination, as well as the imbalances in wealth, power, access to land and more… How does Slovakia fit in this picture? How can we acknowledge that through the global circulation of foods, ingredients, cultures and people this country also benefits from the fruits of colonization?
When the capitalisation of cultural inheritance is re-purposed for political and/or economic means, the idea of ownership towards intangible cultural heritage such as food becomes a battleground. The exhibition highlights different political agendas and discrepancies between the acceptance of goods, including food products, and the rejection of humans, for example, asylum seekers/migrants. It further explores the difference between the representations of local (traditional) and global (exotic) food cultures.
Who or what is exotic? How is this term constructed and against what? Exotic is that which is alien, yet desirable; the subject of romantic consumerism; the one which the white colonialist gazes upon with thirst and greed. The exotic is the fruit of the conquest, the reward to be picked, renamed, rebranded, packaged and shipped back to Europe from across the world. In the context of this exhibition, “exotic” refers not only to prized luxury consumer items but also to spices, fruits and other ingredients which have become an integral part of our culinary habits. While consumer goods are being shipped and traded relatively freely, the people who arrive in Europe from the very same places are often perceived completely differently, and face rejection or even treated as a threat precisely because of their foreign and “exotic” status.
Exotic fruit and fruit boxes collected from markets and shops around Šopa Gallery in Košice are displayed alongside a series of paintings titled “Noble Savages”. The series includes famous Dutch/Flemish, Spanish, Italian and French… still-life paintings from the 17th century (at the height of colonial empires), which have been slightly modified by Elia by adding various stickers to the fruit. The text on the notes such as “fresh from conflicted land” or “PSST! I’m full of colonial sins” help question and complicate our relationship with the subjects depicted. Collectively titled “Früchtlinge”, the collected fruit, the video and the still lives highlight the contemporary Western gaze on the Global South. They question value, as well as what or who is perceived as “tropical” or “exotic”, or what or who is welcome here.
In the 17th century, during the Dutch Golden Age, still life paintings would often include sumptuous and expensive-looking objects, fostered by wealth reaped from overseas trading and colonial ventures. “Vanitas” paintings would typically depict exotic and symbolic objects such as maps, Chinese porcelain bowls, jewellery and goblets of wine that represent earthly pleasures, wealth and power; alongside peeled and rotting fruit, pocket watches, skulls or insects, designed to remind the viewer of their mortality (“memento mori”). Yet many of the products, especially fresh exotic fruit, were still hard to come by and very expensive to afford – as also referenced by Elia’s sticker notes on a series of lemons: “We only had!” and “It’s pretty much!”...
Private organizations like the Dutch East India Trading Company or the British East India Company aggressively pursued their economic agendas overseas. Exotic luxuries from all over the world started to arrive in Europe through international ports: fruits from across the Mediterranean; plants, tobacco and cocoa from the “New World”; spices and precious gems from India; tea, silk, and porcelain from China and Japan; sugar from colonies in Brazil and Guyana, and slaves from Africa… The legacies of the brutal exploitation of these capitalist and colonial ventures are still palpable and continue to influence global trade today, and can easily be identified even in the local markets, shops and restaurants in the city centre of Košice.
As part of the project, and in keeping with Elia’s ongoing practice of running workshops and sharing food in various contexts, on Saturday, 20 May we invite you to join an open lunch, or an “‘inauthentic cooking class”. Participants will be given the opportunity to create their own recipes using various ingredients, both local and international from around the world (such as pineapple, sauerkraut, rice paper, tortilla, nori, and so on...), while discussing pressing issues such as the tourism industry, refugees, different cultures living side by side, and of course (in)authentic recipes.
Elia Nurvista (b. 1983 Yogyakarta, Indonesia) has been exploring questions related to food cultures for over a decade. Through her practice, she investigates the entangled histories between nourishment and politics, colonialism, migration and capitalist forces among others. She uses discussions around food as an instrument to address pressing social, economic and cultural tensions.
In 2015 Elia initiated Bakudapan, a food study group including researchers from various backgrounds and operating between art, ethnography, research and practice.
Elia has participated in several exhibitions including Sharjah Biennial 15 (2023); Bakudapan: The Flavor of Power, Yamaguchi Media Arts Centre, Japan (2023); At The Table Garage Rotterdam, The Netherlands (2023); Sur le feu Palais des Beaux-Arts, Paris, France (2023); Dhaka Art Summit, Bangladesh (2020), Karachi Biennale, Pakistan (2019) and ‘The 9th Asia Pacific Triennial of Contemporary Art’, at QAGOMA, Brisbane, Australia (2018), among others. She also curated Jogja Biennale Equator VI; Indonesia with Oceania (2021), ADAM LAB at TPAC (Taipei Performing Arts Center) with Transient Collective (2020), and a solidarity platform about Land, Water, Farming, Food: Struggle for Sovereignty. Between July and September 2023, she will be artist in residence at MeetFactory, Prague.
Elia and Bori worked together for the first time in the context of “Košice Seed Library”, an exhibition Bori curated for Šopa Gallery, in Feb – Mar 2022, including around 25 international artists and contributors. This project seeded the idea of the current collaboration…