“The Digest”, Kunstraum Memphis, Linz, exhibition

29 May – 27 September 2024


The Digest is a new format of Pickle Bar with a reading room and scenography bringing together the unlikely bedfellows of fermentation and books: including a selection of research material and bibliographies collected over several years of public programs at Pickle Bar in Berlin as well as abroad. Launched in 2020 by Slavs and Tatars and curators Patricia Couvet and Anastasia Marukhina, Pickle Bar is a non-profit project space for research, performance and discursive formats located in Berlin-Moabit. Dedicated to an unlikely form of knowledge production – one where hospitality and discourse are inseparable – Pickle Bar addresses items of urgency, through deep dives into often-overlooked areas of study in oral and cultural histories, material culture, language and gender studies, with the focus on the region of Eurasia. ‍ 

Within the Slavic equivalent of an aperitivo bar, where instead of cheese and wine, different fermented juices and bites are served, Pickle Bar extends its reading list for the first time in a physical space at Memphis Kunstraum. The Digest not only shares a part of its growing library, dedicated to the exploration of language amidst the communities and diasporas in the Eurasian space, but also aims to delve into the contemporary literary and cultural landscapes to explore the performative potential of readership, the essence of reading, our reading methods, and preferred reading locations. In a time when new technologies are reshaping our approaches to reading, and encounters with books,The  Digest suggests reading as a collective practice where tastes and texts are being consumed altogether. ‍

Throughout history, language has been systematically used as a weapon to assert control and delegitimize belonging: without enough regard to its empowering and liberating potential. By exploring language affects specific to artists, poets, writers and activists, The Digest intends to illuminate the various processes of adaptation, evolution, and hybridization – from slang to queer linguistics – amidst great geopolitical changes and cultural upheavals. More than  20 volumes offer a survey of Pickle Bar’s past public programs such as Azbuka Strikes Back (2021), Lavender Languages Institute (2022), Slurs (2023) and Sturm and Slang (2024) celebrating the necessarily fluid nature of language as an agency of self-determination and empowerment. ‍

The scenography of The Digest features work from Slavs and Tatars cycle of works Pickle Politics.  Whether microbes or mitochondria dwelling furtively on the skin or non-native agents living within us: bacteria comprise one kilogram of the average human body. Pickle Politics looks to the practices and symbolism of fermentation, constructing a political argument using notions of the rotten, the spoiled, and the soured. A transnational root indigenous to Eastern Europe and Western Asia, the horseradish best exemplifies the push and pull, the attraction and repulsion necessary to reconsider and move beyond the reductive and confrontational thinking of our age. Railing against binaries, Mme Meerrettich – a two headed anthropomorphic horseradish – features a tail which speaks to its head, perverting the dualism of Enlightenment thinking. At the same time, Salty Sermon provides a manifesto for the collective’s approach to pickling. Slavs and Tatars see in fermentation nothing less than a robust challenge to the Enlightenment and its legacy of binary thinking. After all, fermentation is a means of preserving thru managed rotting; that is, achieving something via its counterintuitive antithesis. ‍

A further form of fermentation, The Digest is continuously activated and conceived with past and present participants of Pickle Bar’s public programs in Berlin and abroad, Multilingualism – and the different sometimes conflicting perspectives further languages bring – is a modus operandi of Pickle Bar to explore the limits of ideologies, knowledge production of belief systems. ‍

For the opening on the 28th of May, Kunstraum Memphis and Pickle Bar’s The Digest is proud to host “Hairpin Beneath 钗之后”, a performance and further elaboration on collective reading by Zishi Han and Wei Yang. Emerging from the artist’s ongoing collaborative research project into historical Chinese homoerotic literature, Hairpin Beneath intertwines multiple narratives to explore queer existences in China and the Chinese diaspora. The point of their departure is a Ming dynasty anthology of homoerotic stories, ‘弁而釵’ (Biàn ér chāi). The title of the book implies the scene of a man taking off his ceremonial headgear and putting on a woman's hairpin. Structured around a set of excerpts from the book, they loosely interpret its storylines and draw on a variety of Chinese historical and contemporary cultural practices, such as poetry, Chinese Opera, literati landscape painting, Danmei literature, pop music and reality TV shows. Oscillating between live reading and video projection, they assemble formally distinct but correlating components of the performance to dwell amidst the blurry boundary between the fictional and the biographical.
Opening: 28 May 2024, 19:30

28 May, 2024, 20:30
Zishi Han and Wei Yang, “Hairpin Beneath 钗之后”, performance

Curator: Anastasia Marukhina

More information on Memphis website.