By DeeDee Hughes, Staff Writer
News alert: artists are doing something bizarre again. Two Japanese artists, Ei and Tomoo Arakawa, will serve radioactive soup to audiences at Frieze London in an exhibit entitled, Does This Soup Taste Ambivalent?. Yes, you read that correctly. Radioactive soup.
Frieze is a massive annual contemporary art fair that will take place October 15-18 in Regent’s Park, London. And while Ei and Tomoo Arakawa have been known for some avant-garde and extreme exhibitions, this exhibit is not random.
In March 2011, Fukushima, a city about 230 miles northeast of Japan, suffered massive magnitude 9.0 earthquake. There was a subsequent tsunami. The natural disasters caused a nuclear power plant, the Fukushima Daiichi plant, to explode and contaminate the area for miles.
Now, back to the soup. The main ingredient is daikon radish, which was grown in the contaminated areas of Fukushima. The artists have said that the soup is a statement of solidarity intended for those affected by the nuclear disaster. However, in the Frieze catalogue, it is explained as an exhibit exploring psychological barriers. The soup is a symbol of “hospitality, sharing and humanity” but within it is the possibility of danger.
Amidst all of this great artistic meaning, questions of safety and legality seem to have been lost. However, the artists have stressed that the soup is safe to eat, having been approved by the Japanese Farmers’ Association, and the exhibit is perfectly legal.
The question that remains is not an uncommon one in the art world: how far is too far? I see where the meaning of this exhibit is rooted, and it is undoubtedly a noble cause to draw attention to, but it crosses a line.
Regardless of whether or not the soup will actually cause physical harm, to ask audiences to put their bodies at risk in order to fully participate in the exhibition is unfair. It is one thing for an artist to endanger his own body, but to create a piece of art based on the idea of the viewer choosing to endanger his or her own body seems too unreasonable.
I would not eat the soup, even if the artists’ mother were being flown in to London to make the broth herself (which she is). Would you eat the radioactive soup?