Considering Power: Seventy-five kilos of potatoes are tied up and cordoned off in a Munich underpass. Why? Why potatoes?
The artwork ‘Considering Power’ seeks to provoke interrogation in relation to questions of power, society and food. It is part of the 2nd Festival für unangepasste Kunst in Munich during 15-17 July.
The potato has a rich history. Coming from Peru in South America where it was known and eaten 8000 BC it was first introduced to Europe through Spain around 1570 and was in wide use as a food source for the poor in England, Ireland, France and Germany by 1770. Potatoes helped solve the food scarcity problem In Europe. In the 1840’s the failure of potato crops due to blight, a disease which destroyed the potato crop, spurred waves of migration from Ireland and Scotland to Australia, New Zealand and America. The subsequent famine killed more than 1 million people in Europe. It also led to low population levels in the affected countries for decades afterwards.
The uptake of potatoes as a crop was at times tentative among the peasant people in Europe. Initially a lot of people died in Germany because they ate the poisonous cherry sized berries not the potato which is the root. Due to the kings and queens of France and Germany making public displays of eating the vegetable it became more accepted as a crop and food source. Frederick the Great was King of Prussia and a great advocate of the potato as a food source for people and animals as it was easy to grow and was less susceptible to water damage than grains. During his reign he made more than 15 decrees introducing and promoting the potato plantings in Prussia. He made priests advocates for the vegetable and even planted his own crops and had them guarded by soldiers hoping to ignite interest in the crop letting the peasants secretly steal them. It was a successful strategy.
Over time potatoes came to have many meanings. If you call someone a potato you are suggesting they are lazy and maybe also chubby. A ‘potato head’ is someone who is not very smart. If you are a ‘couch potato’ you prefer to hang out inside watching TV than being active. In the online Urban Dictionary a potato often refers to something of inferior quality or badly made. Or it can also refer to ‘White people living or travelling in South East Asia’ and was coined in 2008 by ex-pats living in Vietnam. According to the dictionary this usage has spread throughout South East Asia and is also being used in Sydney. Making reference to a potato can also refer to the masses, the folk, or in German ‘das Volk’.
The work can be seen as part of the 2nd Festival für unangepasste Kunst in Munich during 15-17 July. Location of the Open Air exhibition in the underpass near the botanical gardens on the crossroads Menzingerstr/Winthrichring/ Maria-Ward-Str, Munich 80638.
Kreative Besetzung des Münchner Untergrunds, Münchner Wochen Anzeige, 12.07.2016