Hundreds of children have devoured a Whitechapel Gallery exhibition for the second time in the institution’s history. In 1973 an enticing exhibition featuring hundreds of types of sweets was staged to celebrate the UK’s entry to the European Common Market. It was brought to an abrupt end when it was unexpectedly eaten by local schoolchildren. This year the extraordinary event is recreated against a background of Britain’s impending departure from the European Union in 2019.
Whitechapel Gallery is pleased to present Sweet Feast, a new commission by artist Ulla von Brandenburg (b. 1974, Germany) in partnership with Le Prix Marcel Duchamp, following her nomination in 2016 for this prestigious annual award. Sweet Feast features a new film screened for six months in the ground floor gallery. Visitors of all ages are invited to take a seat and watch on a large, colourful structure designed by the artist.
The historic exhibition Sweets was Whitechapel Gallery’s contribution to the ‘Fanfare for Europe’ celebrations. The irresistible display of confectionary from European Common Market members included Belgian chocolate coins, French lollipops shaped as the Eiffel Tower, gummy mice from Germany, coffee-flavoured Hopjes from Holland, Italian marzipan fruits, salty licorice from Denmark, Irish mints and toffee from Yorkshire. According to archive records on 28 January 1973, the last day of the exhibition, 500 children visited to learn about sweets as popular art. The children were invited to sample specially selected candies donated by some of the manufacturers. In their enthusiasm, they overwhelmed the only guard on duty and devoured all the displays.
Ulla von Brandenburg recorded a re-staging of this curious incident, working with the participation of children from local primary school Arnhem Wharf. The film includes a song co-written by the children and artist. Shot in the same location as the historic exhibition, it features a set accurately recreated based on photographs held in the Whitechapel Gallery’s archive.
Ulla von Brandenburg lives and works in Paris. She was nominated for Le Prix Marcel Duchamp in 2016, reflecting her work as one of the most innovative contemporary artists in France. Her multifaceted practice encompasses a combination of film, installation, performance and drawing. Renowned for a body of work drawing on theatre and performance to explore complex social issues, von Brandenburg explores the dynamics between the individual and the group in this work. Sweet Feast is informed by the context of the original exhibition, staged at a time when new educational methods considering children as individuals emerged and against a political backdrop of anti-establishment movements, struggles for freedom and civil rights. It also considers opportunities for the next generation, during a period dominated by conversations about the future impact of Brexit.
The exhibition is curated by Lydia Yee, Chief Curator at the Whitechapel Gallery with Cameron Foote, Assistant Curator at the Whitechapel Gallery.
A fully-illustrated publication accompanies the exhibition with contibutions by Iwona Blazwick, Maximilian Rauschenbach, Christoph Schreier and Lydia Yee. It is co-prodced with Kunstmuseum Bonn and published by Whitechapel Gallery.
A talk by the artist will take place on Thursday 6 December at 7pm