Gabriela Oberkofler: Api étoilé – Ein wachsendes Archiv

Cat. Villa Merkel Galerie der Stadt Esslingen

Exhibition catalogue, edited by Andreas Baur
texts (German/English) by Andreas Baur, Harald Gasser, Roman Lenz, Christiane Mennicke-Schwarz, Mathias von Mirbach, Marlies Ortner, Elisabeth Pircher, Jan Sneyd, Irina Zacharias
272 p with 172 coloured illustrations
280 x 210 mm, hardcover

ISBN 978-3-86442-346-8

48,00 €

»Api étoilé – A Growing Archive« – of the benefits of crops or
The Bean is the Star

This archive from Gabriela Oberkofler initiated focuses on agricultural crops and is collectiong seeds and field reports with respect to their cultivation. After a journey of several months from Hamburg to Bergamo, during which she met, interviewed and filmed many experts, the book »Api étoilé – A Growing Archive« is now available, an elegant as well as stirring documentation. There are rarities to be found in Gabriela Oberkoflers Mobile Seed Archive for crop plants, which is set up as a growing and participatory project. For example, presented in round, labeled Petri dishes inserted into medium-densitiy fibreboards fitted in turn into a mobile framework of shelves, is the seed of the spinach variety Guter Heinrich (Good Heinrich) alongside that of the lettuce Maibutter (May butter), the seed of the Spargelsalat (Asparagus salad) next to that of the Grüne Gartenmelde (Green Gardenmelde), and the seed of the beef tomato Riese von Omsk (Giant of Omsk) alongside that of the Anisminze (Anis mint). In addition to the tomato seeds, collected in large numbers but seemingly unspectacular, the largest section of the archive is currently still reserved for beans. Such gems, one is inclined to say, such pearls are brought together here. Two-colored bean seeds nearing violet hues; brown alongside white alongside black; round or more longish beans; specimens with two- or three-color patterns on their outer skin. These latter ones are numbered among the fire beans; they are also called coffee beans or scarlet runner beans. How splendid these displays are! It can be stated with no doubt: the bean is the star.
And then, in an inimitable way, the artist draws an inner program of the collected as well as the stored. For a while now, Gabriela Oberkofler has been making use of fine-tipped pens when drawing. They offer light-resistant inks. They were also used in the series »Pflanzenpalaver«. The pens allow for very closely spaced lines to be drawn in a compact arrangement. Extremely delicate textures can be achieved in this way, inviting the viewers to take a close look and immerse themselves in all the graphic abbreviations. It’s almost as if one were to lose oneself in them, as if one were being absorbed into the dynamic hatching and richly detailed structures of lines that are on display. And because nothing – neither objects nor plants, neither insects nor rhizomes of the mushrooms – is defined by contours but instead exclusively by various shaped surface structures, the drawings simultaneously acquire a painterly appearance.
»Api étoilé« is therefore not about prescribing solutions and paths to a better future. What is instead at stake is the recognition in response to this background that things cannot continue as heretofore, the growing readiness to sharpen the senses and accept detours, to endure complexitiy, to dare experimentation and to explore new things.
There is no way to rationalize it away: the fact is that little more than a fourth of what originally constituted the biological diversity of the Earth has been preserved. That is a sobering thought.
But precisely in the open, receptive attitude with regard to the necessary and the unpredictable, there is a surprising similarity between gardening and the practice of art. With their respective linguistic and also strategic possibilities, it is a matter of reacting to socially significant issues. Here and there, in both gardening and art, one must be ready to try things out, to observe, to investigate, to be astounded, to proceed along new pathways – in order then, at best, to stand before a solution or an incipient process or an idea whose existence you could not have even imagined the day before.
Or as Mathias von Mirbach, the co-founder of Solidarity Farming in Germany, puts it simply: »And the strange surprise about all this is that, it actually works.«
(Andreas Baur in his contribution in the book.)

Villa Merkel Galerie der Stadt Esslingen, 15/5 – 15/8/2021