Miracle Berries at The Miller Gallery | Program Notes
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Sunday, September 13, 2009

Miracle Berries at The Miller Gallery

Posted By on Sun, Sep 13, 2009 at 5:46 PM

Many of the guests at the Sept. 11 opening reception for the gallery's new show were handed a blister pack containing a single dried, seed-like sample of this West African berry. It's a culinary cult item: Suck on it for a few minutes, then sour things you eat afterward taste sweet.

Miller Gallery's tasting party featured the obligatory lemons, plus little cups of wine vinegar, sour gummy worms, radishes, tabasco sauce and the like. The berry itself tasted like cardboard, though as you lozenged away a little saccharine notekicked in. But it worked: For about an hour, lemons tasted sugary (with a tang), and vinegar more like a sauce in a Chinese restaurant.

It was another inventive opening reception from Miller Gallery curator Astria Suparak. The real question, though, is what the berry has to do with the show.

Titled 29 Chains to the Moon, and inspired by futurist R. Buckminster Fuller, the exhibit (guest-curated by Andrea Grover) showcased several artist collectives' visions for how mankind might inhabit Our Reeling Planet more sustainably.

So as not to pre-empt CP's forthcoming formal review of the show, I'll go into no more detail than to note that many of these conceptions of human life assume a future glacierless planet, and involve the ocean.

That is indeed a way to try to make lemonade out of lemons. I can see miracle berries as symbolic of imaginative thinking, a suggestion that we need not continue to respond to old stimuli (fear of ecological collapse, etc.) the way we always have.

But of course the metaphor only goes so far. Miracle berries don't change the lemons, just how they taste to you, and even that only temporarily.

Likewise, animplicit assumption that halting climate change is a lost cause is problematic in itself. A planet altered by greenhouse gasses isn't just warmer and wetter -- it's completely different. For instance, oceans absorb carbon dioxide, and become more acidic as they do. That kills coral reefs and fish alike. I would hate to try to live off the bounty of an ocean occupied by nothing by jellyfish and algae, miracle berries or no.

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