Strawberry Fields

From the beginning I was interested in these giant strawberries selling huts, like signals in the landscape, like big round marbles, bigger than me, giving a distorted scale to the surrounding, lost and red and disturbing.

They looked funny, so many different shapes, some had eyes, some not, some were really big, some were small, but all were round with some green on the top. And all these painted signs, big, small, different styles, different ways of representing a strawberry, some on metal, some on wood, some painted on huts, some made from plastic in the middle of nowhere. Like ghosts of a world made of strawberries. To me they seemed to have a life of their own. As soon I started to look for them, they appeared everywhere, suddenly, at places nothing but a field was before, a day or a week before, or a month.

It is strawberry season. It starts middle of June, sometimes end of May, mostly parallel to asparagus season, it ends in July and is handed over to raspberries and blueberries and peas, later there are apples. It depends on weather and rain, how much sun, so many factors.

It starts in the supermarkets. First you find strawberries from Egypt, then it is Spain. Followed from Italy, they come closer. Then you check the food stalls in the town centre.
And there you find them: strawberries, the first strawberries from Germany, very expensive still, the season is just beginning, the same shape, the same kind, you remember from your childhood, the juice, the acid, the sweet, sweet taste. You remember a bowl of milk, quartered strawberries, the milk soaked by red streaks, sugar on top, sugar in crystals, tiny crystals, exploding on your tongue, the smell of earth, metal smell of rain on earth, earth on your hands, the taste of moist earth, and the crispness of peas fresh from the plant.

And you know then: soon the signs will appear.
I live in an area close to Hannover, the main town of Lower Saxony in Germany. The surrounding is rural, an area for wheat and sugar turnip, and strawberries for this very special time in the year.

The signs appear, they shout and promise sweet red fruits. You can buy them, but also can you pluck them by yourselves. You can pluck in this area strawberries, blueberries, beans, apples, pears, and you can cut flowers from spring till autumn, all these activities on fields in the middle of nowhere, just announced by signs, signs changing places, fields changing places, they are in motion, no year is like the year before or the year after, like a mosaic, changing by needs of the earth and the farmers.

Huge fields of strawberries, crowded by families, couples, old people, children, on their knees, plucking and eating (eating is for free while you are plucking, you know…), row by row, on a field, covered by straw, so the precious berries will not have contact with muddy earth. Buckets, bowls, all shapes, all sizes. You pay by weight. Plucking is cheaper than buying already plucked ones, of course. Strawberry marmelade, self made, or strawberries on sponge cake. Cake. Juice. Jam. Conserved. Fresh. Frozen.
Observing the plucking persons, it seems to be an obsession. More. One more. Eat one more, one more into the bucket. Cars arrive, cars leave, people shouting, laughing. Crowds of people at the selling huts where the employee weights the harvest and takes the money.

In the evenings the fields are left alone. Fields and signs, no humans. Without humans it seems a changed place, the funny signs achieve a life of their own, they laugh, they promise. And they change the scale. Grown-ups, not like these tiny fruity things down on the earth, but solid ones, big ones, made by plastic and metal and wood and paint.
Shifting the scale, absurd beings between imagination and advertising, surreal, absurd things, on strawberry fields.

Silke Rokitta
Bergen, Autumn 2007

MFA, Bergen Academy of Art and Design, Norway, 2008