The installation ,PATATERS‘ was a contribution to the exhibition project ‚KunstWagen‘. Artists were asked to develop installations in freight cars for the 100th jubilee of the railway line between Bremerhaven and Hamburg. The cars were coupled together to form a train and moved after some days to the next station. Like this the exibition could be visited in various stations along the railway line.
The wagon had three compartments: the DARK ROOM of the past, the SLUISE of transition and the LIGHT CHAMBER of the present.
With the advent of industrialization, the area of the so called ‚wet triangle‘ between the rivers Elbe and Weser could be drained and developed into one of the main producing areas of seed potatoes. There were 27 loading stations for potatoes on the railway line between Bremerhaven and Hamburg. Each village had at least one house for pregermination where the new generation of seed potatoes were stored in stacked wooden boxes from harvesting to planting. Here they were able to develop strong light nuclei under optimal conditions of light, air and heat. And this gave them a decisive lead in growth.
THE DARK ROOM
Entering the DARK ROOM the visitor is embraced by blue shimmering darkness. A grid of white rectangles shines forth from it. Once you get used to the darkness, you recognize that the limitations of the aisles consist of stacked half-open boxes. Stacks of 440 potato-pregermination-boxes form the wall and passage system. Each box is dedicated to one of the 440 varieties of potatoes, which were in the region in cultivation in the time between 1900 and 1970. Almost all these varieties have disappeared, most cases therefore are black and empty. Only the white shining plate indicates name, breeder, purpose and the period of cultivation. In comparison to today’s variety names the rather poetic, political or descriptive appellations reflect history.
In this mausoleum of extinct potato varieties some individual boxes light up in red colors. They accommodate the few varieties that are still in cultivation since the above-mentioned period. Red enlightened the tubers radiate in the remaining cool-blue darkness like embers in the color of warmth and vitality.
At the end of the DARK ROOM you pass a curtain of traditional fabric potato sacs – that still emit the earthy scent of stored potatoes – to enter the SLUISE. A narrow aisle that separates the ark from the light compartment. It is illuminated in a bright green just like the large potato storages are to avoid the harmful greening of potatoes exposed to sunlight.
THE LIGHT CHAMBER
Passing another curtain of potato-sacs you finally enter the LIGHT CHAMBER.
There the current range of potato varieties is presented. Sunlight brightly shines through the narrow windows. Large pregermi- nation lights – as used in the breeding stations – hang from the ceiling and additionally illuminate the space. On a full-height, inclined plane, spanning over half of the floor space you find an accurately lined up arrangement of 1780 potatoes. Respectively 10 (2 x 5) pre-germinated tubers of all 178 approved potato varieties that are currently grown in Germany. The arrangement of the potatoes – impaled on nail-studded piece of wood – corresponds to the arrangement of examination of the Bundessortenamt (federal office for the examination of crop varieties). The different textures of light nuclei are essential exterior features to distinguish the varieties and here show an extract of the incredible variance of possible forms. The arrangement of 10 potatoes of the same variety shows clearly the typical characteristics of a variety. A quirky collection of bizarre shapes and varied colors.