Art|Basel

Hungry for some Art?
A Review of the Exhibition All Cannibals?

Article by Gabriella Picone

Aida Makoto, series of Edible Artificial Girls, Mi-Mi Chan, 2001Aida Makoto – “Mi Mi Chan” (2001); Courtesy of Aida Makoto Collection

Tuesday, August 16, 2011

The current exhibition at the Me Collectors Room, All Cannibals?, is a delicious spectacle of the eccentric and perverse that forces viewers to reconsider their own cannibalistic tendencies. The show presents 40 different artists and 100 works that employ inquisitive and playful approaches to discussing anthropophagy. Included is a range of multimedia historical and contemporary pieces that simmer a thought provoking dialogue between literal and symbolic consumption. This collection leaves visitors questioning whether we humans are all cannibals—hungry and ready to devour each other.

The exhibition is curated both thematically and chronologically and it deliberately begins right when you walk through the door to the café, before reaching the main exhibition hall. Hung schematically over the dinning table, where visitors casually sip their coffees, is Aida Makoto’s series Edible Artificial Girls, Mi-Mi Chan: images of desirable girls cut like sushi in a bowl. This ironic and flirtatious tone that irrefutably suppresses the appetite is consistently found in several other works, such as Patty Chang’s video piece Melons, Philippe Mayaux luscious realistic cakes sculptures that are deceivingly constructed out of fragmented bloody body parts, and Marcel Dzama’s innocent illustrations that depict scenes of brutal violence.

Anonymer Fotograf, Portrait (Der Kannibale Tom)Anonymous photographer – “Cannibal Tom” (ca. 1880); courtesy of Sammlung Cayetana


These contemporary works tend to expose consumption in a more radical and explicit manner than the historical works, whose preliminary function is to serve as a documentation of the exotic. The collection of antique pieces, such as the 1880 photograph of the notorious Cannibal Tom (a “celebrity” cannibal from The Fiji Islands), presents anthropophagy like a scientific study. Similarly, Belgian artist Théodore de Bry’s intent is to convey “reality” with his (irrefutably racist) drawings from 1528 that illustrate images of African “savages” feasting on Westerners as part of a spiritual ritual.

Marcel Dzama – “Der Wald der Selbstzerstörer” (2004); courtesy of Timothy Taylor Gallery

However cannibalism is not only presented as a primordial fear of indigenous tribes, but also as a metaphor for Western religion. The exhibition includes various Christian relics, such as a classic oil painting of The Virgin and Child (where baby Jesus eats his mothers breasts) and a painting by Edouard Antoine Marsal entitled, The Martyrdom of Missionaries, that illustrates a sacrificial cannibalistic ceremony that took place in France during the late 19th century.

The range and collection of art works in the exhibition reveals that cannibalism has existed everywhere and is still a relevant topic that artists employ to metaphorically discuss sociology. The juxtaposition of images of literal cannibalism with the notions of symbolic consumption creates a dialogue about the current physical and psychological shape of our culture. Ultimately all humans partake in this destruction and this exhibition provides the awareness that yes, we are all cannibals.

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Additional Information

Me Collectors Room Berlin
“All Cannibals?”
Exhibition: May 29 – August 21, 2011
Auguststrasse 68 (click here for map)


Philippe Mayaux, Sans titre Philippe Mayaux – “Sans titre” (2006); courtesy of Galerie Loevenbruck
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Gabriella Picone is a New York based artist and writer living in Berlin. She received her BFA in Painting from The Rhode Island School of Design. She is currently teaching English and Fine Arts at The Dreilinden Schule, as well as working on an art series entitled Irrational Science.


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