Fruitful Art From the Greenhouse

March 9, 2011 by

An orchard of trees with genetically altered properties was growing at this year’s Armory Show in New York City.

In the installation, New Edens, by artist Sam Van Aken, the trunks and leader branches identified the trees as peach, plum, cherry, nectarine, and apricot, respectively, but each tree had the capacity to simultaneously grow all five fruits. As a work in progress, one could see the five different blossoms on each tree. Alongside the orchard, synthetic mutations of grafted fruits formed strange and provocative hybrids. The installation included hybrid vegetable seed starters in small pots, while large digital prints displayed images composed from mixed seed packets, part of the artist’s raw material.

Van Aken raises issues of genetic engineering, of biodiversity versus food monoculture, and, ultimately, the symbiosis of our relationship with nature. He suggests that, far from being the passive recipients of foodstuffs as we go about our daily lives of shopping and eating, we are forced to become involved with the modern technologies of food growth and distribution.

Combining sophisticated technology with traditional modes of art-making, Van Aken’s project crosses the boundaries between artistic genres, including performance, installation, video, photography, and sculpture. In other words: Food for thought.

Sam Van Aken is newly represented by the Feldman Gallery.

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