Promiscuous Production: Meeting is Bittersweet

A National Bitter Melon Council Public, Interactive Intervention, Nov. 7, 2010

Group Exhibition: Let Them EAT LACMA, a 1-day performance event celebrating the closing of the garden-focused exhibition: EAT LACMA (June – November, 2010)

Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA)


Meeting (and its aftermath) carries the essence and inevitability of human contact: exchange, wonder, and change. This Meeting is Bittersweet, a human-scale manifestation of the National Bitter Melon Council’s EAT LACMA garden installation, was just that.  The installation Promiscuous Production: Breeding is Bittersweet was a tunnel of love made of a bamboo trellis where two “opposing” gourds (Bitter Melon and sweet melon) cross-bred a new variety: BitterSweet Melon. With that installation as the backdrop, the performance began by quizzing visitors to determine their levels of bitterness or sweetness using the NBMC’s original Meyers-Bitter survey. Once ID’d, they wore Bitter or Sweet nametags and were givenpink (sweet) or green (bitter) pollinator stickers.  Afterward, we sent them off to cross-pollinate.

Participants interpreted the instruction broadly, realizing a collective performance turned institutional intervention throughout LACMA. Pink and green pollen peppered unwitting friends and strangers.  It appeared everywhere — on bodies, walls, and floors, and even snuck into other performances. By the end of the day, the whole of LACMA was bittersweet.

This world cannot be understood through sweetness alone, but often bitterness is seen as a repellent flavor and emotion. However, we believe that fear and avoidance of bitterness on the tongue and in the spirit lead to blandness and flatness of experience, hence our exploration of the bittersweet in this performance. Exposing these opposites in a performance environment instigated exchange through difference — indeed, because of it. The wonder and play in participants’ interactions reached from one polarity to the other in a way was truly bittersweet.

To read about the corresponding Promiscuous Production public sculpture and interactive installation called Breeding is Bittersweet at the EAT LACMA exhibition, click here.