Valentina Karga

The Agar Banquet: a gel-related credit system

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A participatory performance @ A Soft Tragedy, a spatial storytelling project by Lorenzo Sandoval.  Photos: Ethan Hayes-Chute

In Odyssey, feasting represents a kind of heroic attitude towards life. To be a hero is to live life fully, spending your excess energy in a lavish manner, regaining surplus from this activity. However, a little be too much and the heroic attitude becomes gluttony. This is part of the story of what happened to us and why there are no heroes anymore. Thirty or forty years ago, in every settlement, city or village, one could find heaps of a sweet gelatinous substance, containing berries, herbs, flowers and milk or other ingredients typical for the region.There was not too much of it, but plenty enough for a festive meal once in a while. But then we discovered how to artificially reproduce it, or import it from other far-away lands, leaving them deprived from their right to the jelly. The punishment for gluttony came from the ultimate glutton, a giant with enormous appetite. He ate so much jelly that became jelly himself; so huge that covered the whole planet. This giant jelly-blob contains now everything: people -us-, houses, cities, villages, cars, markets, the seas and the forests. Even the air is nowjelly-like.We don’t feel it anymore; the transformation happened so gradually that if felt normal, and our bodies, mindsets, and even memory adapted to it. We eat it and shit it out, caught in an endless exercise of swallowing without digestion. Instead of gaining surplus energy, we are moving towards exhaustion.

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Photo: Gilly Karjevski

We would like to invite you on board for The Agar Banquet: a gel-related credit system, which is, in essence, an exercise in creating promissory social bonds by exchanging swallowing-in-the-now for future possibilities of trade. According to the primordial debt theory, we are all indebted to the world and to each other by default, just by existing. In a world where heroes are lost and everything is subsumed and diffused in the jelly, all systems of established authority that attempt to calculate this indefinite debt are obviously rendered obsolete. When nothing else makes sense, the only question to ask is: what does make sense to us? Freedom can be found in the decision of how we want to pay our debts, or if we want to do that at all. If we are to be indebted, can we acquire a heroic attitude towards that? Can we, at least, feast on these feelings of indebtness? The banquet emerges as a site not for excess, but for developing skills of discernment towards our own motivations.

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Photo: Göksu Kunak

About A Soft Tragedy:

A Soft Tragedy is conceived as a ‘navigable plot’ taking place along the Landwehr Canal which presents a raft journey narrated by a collective voice of writings, interventions, and artworks. Revisiting the first part of Homer’s Odyssey, the Telemachiad, the narrative aims to reformulate a foundational myth through the removal of the central hero and the addition of an overall premise of ‘gelification’ as it metaphorically applies to the contemporary condition.

A project by Lorenzo Sandovalco-produced from Kinderhook & Caracas and The Institute for Endotic Research and with contributions from:

Olga Balema, Patrick Burkhardt, Pieterjan Gandry, Ethan Hayes-Chute, John Holten, Mirak Jamal, Valentina Karga, Hanne Lippard, Dafna Maimon, Michele Di Menna, Antoine Renard, Santiago Taccetti, Clémence de La Tour du Pin, Alex Turgeon and Elvia Wilk.

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Photos: Ethan Hayes-Chute