Would you eat vegetables from Fukushima, where a 2011 earthquake off the coast of Japan caused the worst nuclear meltdown since Chernobyl? That’s the question two artists known as the United Brothers asked this past weekend when they served soup made from Fukushima-grown daikon radish and shiitake mushrooms at an art fair near Los Angeles. The artists had the vegetables tested for radiation at a lab in their hometown of Iwaki, Fukushima, to ensure vegetables were safe to eat before bringing the soup to the Paramount Ranch fair as part of a project they called “Does This Soup Taste Ambivalent?”
“We eat the soup,” said Ei Arakawa, who, with his brother Tomoo Arakawa, formed United Brothers a few months after the disaster. “But you still always have this dilemma” about the possibility of contamination, he said. The artists say they're less interested in whether people eat the soup than in how they came to their decision. It is a psychological experiment, and “the perfect piece for an art fair because you don’t expect this sort of dilemma to be presented when you are in the mood for shopping for art,” Ei Arakawa said.
- The Artist Who Lured an Ocelot to Dinner
- Chicken Soup Really Will Help Cure a Cold, Says Science
- Drinking Snake Blood and Slurping Noodle Soup in Asia's Frenetic Night Markets
At lunchtime on Saturday afternoon, a long line had formed at the stand where the Arakawas’ kindly Japanese mother ladled the clear soup into Styrofoam cups. The lab results of the mushrooms and radishes were posted, in Japanese, behind the stand (the water, potatoes, carrots and other ingredients were sourced from California). Otherwise, there was no clear disclaimer, and many of the visitors appeared blissfully unaware of the contents of their free soup. When Arakawa learned that 50 servings had gone in the first 30 minutes, he admitted, “I’m not sure how many people understand the concept.”