In a time of generalized indifference and skepticism, Minerva Cuevas' (b. 1975, Mexico) projects are characterized by a critical investigation of social realities. Her work seeks to provoke reflection on established systems, employing irony and humor to analyze the power structures that underlie social and economic ties. In this exhibition, Cuevas uses cacao as a material to reveal the colonial processes inherent in global trade and commerce. Chocolate is used to transform and distort images of quotidian consumption in order to question the notions of value, exchange, and property that rule the capitalist economy.
The Feast and Famine exhibit had its beginnings in the study of the coin collection at the Museum of Ethnography in Frankfurt. From early inquiries into the use of cacao as currency in the pre-hispanic era, Cuevas began to investigate the cultivation of cacao in present-day Mexico, as well as the surrounding conflicts and commercial interests. At the same time, Cuevas analyzes the term cannibal, and how it has been used throughout history. During the colonial era, the European perception of this phenomenon allowed the demonization of the "revolting Indians" and initiated the process of "civilizing" the inhabitants of the "New World." Today, social cannibalism is reflected in the exploitative labor practices associated with contemporary consumption. The manner in which particular ethnographic objects and histories are acquired, appropriated, and "owned" by institutions and governments can be seen as a way of controlling and consuming the other, a cultural cannibalism being played out on the symbolic level.
Conceived as a playful essay, Cueva's interdisciplinary exhibition combines different aspects of anthropology, product design and economics. The pieces in the show serve as tools to discuss the condition of the individual under the capitalist regime: the constant abuse, dispossession and estrangement from ancestral and cultural identity, as well as the latent possibility of revolt.