Emeka Ogboh’s Black (Beer) Power

THE DAILY PIC: At Ludlow 38, Ogboh's African stout drowns out Germany's lily-white lagers.

THE DAILY PIC (#1656): With help from an (imaginary) beer called Sufferhead, the Nigerian artist Emeka Ogboh has staged a wonderful incursion into a German culture that some citizens want to see more closed to the outside world.

Ludlow 38, a curatorial space in New York run by  Germany’s Goethe-Institut, has commissioned Ogboh’s fictive infomercial about a new, African-inspired stout that has entirely taken over the German market. The drink has replaced the country’s wan lagers – or so the story goes – with a dark and spicy, foreign-born alternative. (Watch a clip from Ogboh’s video here.) The old green-glass lager bottles have disappeared in a sea of black Sufferhead ones.

The project takes a sly poke at right-wingers who have been scaremongering about the imaginary danger of Germany’s “white” population and culture being submerged in the blackness of the country’s African immigrants. If that makes Ogboh’s piece sound like it risks heavy-handed message-slinging, in fact his infomercial is such an immaculate simulation of a real ad that, like most good realism, it allows for all kinds of subtleties of interpretation. Its illusions reach almost Vermeerian depths.

It can even be read as sending a real message to beer lovers: Maybe it’s time for Germany’s famous Reinheitsgebot, a law mandating water, barley, yeast and hops as pretty much beer’s only ingredients, to be opened up to allow the wonderful flavors that other countries are letting into their brews. In New York, for instance, I can buy a lovely Lebanese pale ale called 961 that is brewed with such Middle Eastern spices as sumac, mint, sage, anise, and chamomile. Could it yet rise to threaten Coors and Michelob?

Maybe Trump’s next promise will be to build walls around our breweries. (Courtesy Emeka Ogboh and  MINI/Goethe-Institut Curatorial Residencies Ludlow 38)

For a full survey of past Daily Pics visit blakegopnik.com/archive.

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