See Resurrected Peas And A Vegetable Fat Tower Of Babel

Tabish Khan
By Tabish Khan Last edited 39 months ago
See Resurrected Peas And A Vegetable Fat Tower Of Babel

The history of the Irish pea within a plant incubator. Photo Sylvain Deleu

Londonist Rating: ★★★★☆

The Delfina Foundation is a not for profit gallery that's now well into a four-year study into the politics of food; a topic filled with surprising depth, as we've seen in previous exhibitions. The latest show — Stirring the Pot of Story: Food, History, Memory explores how geopolitics has shaped the foods we eat, with each of the six participating artists focussing on separate and diverse narratives.

Leone Contini has amassed a whole load of food cans from Slovenia, once used by the Italian army; the rusted, yet still-visible labels of these tomato and anchovy tins show an age when catchy logos and brightly coloured packaging were just taking off.

Close-up of an old tin of army-issue tomatoes. Part of Leone Contini's collection of tinned food remnants from battlefield trenches from WWI. Photo Sylvain Deleu

Two artists have explored the history of how plants have traversed the globe. Christine Mackey's incubator tells the story of the Irish pea, which went extinct in its homeland, but was brought back using seeds stored in a seed bank in Russia. It's also surprising to learn how one species of banana was exported to the countries we now associate with the fruit's production; the Cavendish banana was immune to Panama disease, which wiped out other banana species.

Banana plants in suitcases refer to how one type of banana has spread across the world. Photo Sylvain Deleu

Our favourite work is Raul Ortega Ayala's Babel Fat Tower sculpted from vegetable fat; it's surrounded by heat lamps and will slowly melt and fall apart as the exhibition progresses. It's an engaging comment on humanity's exploitation of nature, mass production and obesity.

This Tower of Babel made of vegetable fat will slowly melt and crumble over the duration of the exhibition. Photo Sylvain Deleu

Normally the idea of research-based art makes us wince, as it makes us think of artworks that are impossible for anyone bar the artist to interpret. But this exhibition does a great job explaining each work, creating an engaging exhibition, with each work built around a genuinely interesting slice of food history.

Stirring the Pot of Story: Food, History, Memory is on at Delfina Foundation, 29/31 Catherine Place, SW1E 6DY until 13 June. Entrance is free and the exhibition is open 11-6 Monday to Saturday.

Also see May's most talked about art exhibitions.

Last Updated 22 May 2015