Join us for an exciting virtual discussion about the politics of plants, food and race in art by internationally acclaimed artist Rina Banerjee, creator of The World as Burnt Fruit (2009), and art historian Shana Klein (Kent State University), author of The Fruits of Empire: Art, Food, and the Politics of Race in the Age of American Expansion (University of California Press, 2020). The conversation will be moderated by Romita Ray and Sascha Scott in the Department of Art and Music Histories.
Banana Crimes: A Visual and Colonial History of the U.S. Banana
In 1875, a photographer captured three women sitting closely together consuming bananas at a table. This photograph is rather remarkable given that, at this time, only one of every 10,000 residents in the United States had ever tasted a banana. It also documents the increasing accessibility of bananas, which were imported to the United States from Latin America with the help of refrigeration and icebox technologies. The fruit was assimilated in American dining rooms through their display in still-life pictures, display on glass banana stands and incorporation into U.S. recipes. While these strategies helped naturalize the banana in American homes, the mainstream depiction of bananas also disguised the horrific exploitation of land and people that came at the expense of U.S. banana companies in Latin America. Klein’s presentation uses the banana as a case study for analyzing the complex relationship between art, plants, and politics since the nineteenth century.
Using her 2009 installation, The World as Burnt Fruit, now in the collection of the Kiran Nadar Museum of Art in India, along with several other fruit- and plant-inspired art works as departure points, Banerjee will critique the extractive processes of imperial economies that resulted in plantation industries, deforestation and climate change–economies that continue to underscore the legacies of many of today’s multinational food and beverage companies. In Spring 2023, Banerjee will be in residence at Syracuse University as the Jeannette K. Watson Distinguished Visiting Professor in the Humanities.
Co-sponsored by the Department of Art and Music Histories and the Syracuse University Humanities Center. This event is part of the Art and Music Histories Department Colloquium Series and is organized in conjunction with the art history graduate seminar Plant Worlds.
This event was published on March 21, 2022.