November 28 to February 14, 2015

Alice Creischer/Andreas Siekmann
«In the Stomach of the Predators»



Twelve images and one video tell the ­story of the monopolization of seeds. This work on the progressive privatization of common property began with the opening of the Svalbard Global Seed Vault in 2008 in Norway. Alice Creischer and Andreas Siekmann examine the problematic nature of this development by drawing on historical investigations on economics and politics and their critical graphic portrayal during the world economic ­crisis of the 1930s.

«In 1929, Gerd Arntz and Otto Neurath at the Vienna Institute for Pictorial Statistics began working on the atlas «Gesellschaft und Wirtschaft. Bildstatistisches ­Elementarwerk» (Society and Economics: A Pictorial Statistical Atlas). The atlas comprises one hundred sheets documenting the economic circumstances at the time. Arntz and Neurath’s method of representation is based on serialized images of quantities. Figures or curves that purport to be instantly comprehensible are nowhere to be seen. Instead, the reader is forced to pause in his reading and spend some time counting. One aspect of Gerd Arntz’s graphic work that especially fascinated us was its inherent challenge to make the conditions that it describes debatable and therefore reversible. This was one of our motives in beginning to update the individual sheets, as we have continued to do in several different workshops since 2002.» (Alice ­Creischer/ Andreas Siekmann)

For the opening of Kunstraum Lakeside in 2005, Alice Creischer and Andreas ­Siekmann collaborated with students at the Alpen Adria University in Klagenfurt to bring up to date sheets 58 and 59 from the «Gesellschaft und Wirtschaft» atlas, which have the title «monopolistic productions by European and non-European countries.» They revised the sheets to account for the current creation of monopolies on intellectual property, patents and copyrights under the conditions of a global economy in which national economies have been superseded by the dominance of multinational corporations. The result is a large-scale work consisting of enamel panels for the Lakeside Park lecture hall, as well as a publication documenting the research done in Klagenfurt on the development of monopolies.
For their exhibition in the winter of 2014/15, the artists resumed work on this update ten years later, adding new research that they had begun two years before on the monopolization of seeds. Their work covers developments from the beginnings of the agro-industry during the «Dust Bowl» in the USA in the 1930s to the current impact of seed monopolies on global agriculture. It’s a story of disasters and catastrophes in which those who caused the catastrophes in the first place go on to exploit their dynamics to create new «demands» and productivity regimes. The point of departure for the research was the opening of the Global Seed Vault in Spitsbergen in 2008, which claims to preserve the planet’s seed diversity, but is in fact financed by the world’s biggest seed monopolists: Syngenta, Monsanto and Pioneer.

The creation of this Global Seed Vault is based on an initiative by the Global Crop Diversity Trust for the long-term storage of seeds from all over the world. The vault also studies the genetic diversity of agricultural crops for the purposes of cultivation and scientific analysis. Set up like a bunker inside a mountain and equipped for possible cooling system failure thanks to the permafrost, the seed store aspires to collect seeds from as many crop species as possible in order to protect them from climate change, wars and nuclear disasters. It is financed by agro-businesses such as Syngenta and Pioneer Hi-Bred International and by donations from the Gates Foundation and Rockefeller Foundation, which have been working for decades to drive the monopolization of agricultural products. Genetically modified seeds are in turn reintroduced into global circulation and serve to bind local farmers to industrial production.

Andreas Siekmann presented the research in 12 graphic plates. Alice Creischer has produced a film that can be understood as an ironically critical re-enactment of the opening ceremony of the Seed Vault, attended by high-ranking national and international politicians. In the tradition of silent movies during the interwar recession, the film turns despair into slapstick.

Alice Creischer and Andreas Siekmann live as artists, ­writers and curators in Berlin. They work both collaboratively and individually. They curated the exhibition projects ­«Violence is at the Margin of All Things» at the Generali Foundation in Vienna (2002), «Ex-Argentina» (2004) at Museum Ludwig in Cologne and (with Max Jorge Hinderer) «The Potosí Principle» at Museo Nacional, La Paz, Museo Reina Sofia, Madrid, and House of World Cultures, Berlin (2010). Besides numerous other exhibition projects, both artists participated in Documenta 12 (2007) in Kassel; Siekmann also in Documenta 11 (2002). They teach as professors at Weißensee Kunsthochschule Berlin.