The Red Light District of LACMA

Plans for the Bitter Melon Trellis, courtesy of Materials & Applications

Soon, very soon, we’re going to see a whole lot of hanky panky going on over by the Japanese Pavilion. The eponymously named National Bitter Melon Council (NBMC), an artists’ collective that celebrates, fetes, and educates about this “underappreciated vegetable,” has embarked on a garden project called “Promiscuous Production: Breeding is Bittersweet,” as part of EATLACMA, LACMA’s collaboration on food, art, and culture with the artists’ collective Fallen Fruit. In their “never-ending search for truth through bitterness,” NBMC is planting sweet and bitter melons in a “Farmden” (Farm + Garden), in the hopes that “planting the melons together in a garden designed for maximum vine-to-vine contact” will make for some irresistible cross-pollination and the invention of a Bittersweet Melon hybrid. Yes, NBMC will be, for all intents and purposes, turning the lights down low, illuminating the candles, and cracking open that special bottle of cognac to set the mood for some serious melon romance.

Left: The nearly completed Bitter Melon Trellis; right: (L-R) Hiroko Kikuchi of NBMC and Jenna Didier of Materials & Applications during a Bitter Melon Trellis workshop; photos courtesy of Materials & Appications

Until the melon vines subsume everything in their aching quest for melon harmony, this garden exists as a spectacular trellis construction, built with bamboo harvested from the grove by the BP Grand Entrance. Trellis building began April 10, and is being supervised by local explorers of the art/architectural/landscape realms Materials & Applications (M&A) (who, by the way, are also growing a garden for EATLACMA—a fish taco garden, in fact—but we’ll leave that for a future post.)

Rough sketch of the “Promiscuous Production” garden, courtesy of the National Bitter Melon Council

Brian Janeczko, of M&A, has been leading the Bitter Melon Trellis–building workshops for the last few weekends. How did they do it? Brian explains that torch bending with fire did the trick. This steams the bamboo from the inside out, making it more pliable. Janeczko quoted M&A co-founder Oliver Hess’s take on the process, that “each arch is the frozen moment of the relationship between the person bending the bamboo and the person holding the torch.” Pretty romantic. Once frozen in proper arches, the bamboo framing was lashed together by more than a mile of twine. Matias Viegener of Fallen Fruit declares this garden “a triumph of human-plant collaboration!”

Sarah Bay Williams

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