The Mutato Project is a unique and singular mission by one man to document ‘unusual’ vegetables and fruit or as he calls them Mutatoes! I presume it means mutant potatoes. The man, a German artist named Uli Westphal, started documenting fruit and veg when one day in a Berlin market he discovered a 5 headed aubergine and then scoured the rest of the stalls to find other misshapen veggies. He finds and photographs the veg creating a collection and it influences his other works that ‘deal with the way humans perceive, depict and transform the natural world’. The collection displays the many interesting colours, textures and shapes that groceries can have and mostly likely what different tastes they can have.
The main point that Westphal makes is that we have become almost brainwashed to what vegetables and fruit should look like. The food industry has conditioned us to think that all veg should conform to the same shape and size, their produce goes through rigorous checks so that they are not too small, too big, not too much of a bend in a cucumber, the right shade of pink for an apple, no blemishes at all and the list is endless when you include all the fruit and veg available today. This one issue has several major consequences which Westphal explores through his other artistic works and installations.
Firstly, the lack of blemishes and conformity to shape and size means that the consumer is being taught that this is how vegetables are naturally when nature does not conform to shop ideals. It is educating both adult and children that this is normal when it is far from reality. It is basically a lie by default. Secondly, as many products do not fit the supermarkets’ cardboard cut-out, tons and tons of produce are being disposed and dumped in landfills because supermarkets will not buy them. A waste of food and resources as well as adding to gas build up from landfills. This also means that farmers are losing out on revenue because the wholesalers and retails are refusing any product that is not ‘perfect’. Lastly, this kind of conformity is continuing this retail tool of everything available all the the time when we should be growing and eating the right foods in the right season.
The collection is perfect for show casing these issues and highlighting what is normally shielded to us, the consumer. The People’s Supermarket, a cooperative based shop in London set up by TV Chef Arthur Potts, looked to buy farmers’ rejected produce that wouldn’t be taken by other retailers, to reduce their costs and provide cheaper goods to their customers. This could be a brilliant option for small retailers if they have the ability to educate their customers that these items are completely normal. There are many other issues based on organic, natural production and on to retail tactics and marketing tools which can be discussed from the point raised above, which I will no doubt discuss in other posts. This however is a brilliant visual basis for showing people that these mutatoes aren’t mutant at all but completely natural and next time we shop for our food maybe we’ll think twice before putting back that conjoined mushroom. It won’t look any different in the risotto.
What do you think of the mutatoes? And have you ever seen a crazy potato?