Likely one of the most misunderstood artworks at this summer’s 9th Berlin Biennale is MINT, the juice bar on the ground floor of Akademie der Künste at Pariser Platz, the tourist-attracting square in front of the Brandenburg Gate. For some visitors, MINT, a cash-only bar with offerings like fresh green juices, sparkling water, and Insta-worthy salads, is just a café—its accelerationist approach to conspicuous consumption and the branding of healthy lifestyles is nearly impossible to glean by just passing by.
It so perfectly mimics reality that if you aren’t paying attention, it could convincingly pass as just a trendy café. It is necessary to read the accompanying texts in order to understand that the Debora Delmar Corp., the business behind MINT, is actually an artist, Débora Delmar (incorporated), and that her work probes the very trends it caricatures. The juice bar is esoteric in message, perhaps only accessible if you’re someone who’s *woke* but also enjoys green juice. While Debora Delmar Corp.’s coinciding show, *Headquarters* at DUVE Berlin, is like a vegetable smoothie versus a whole food salad: slightly easier to digest.
MINT exists somewhere between institutional critique and actually being the institution. *Headquarters*, on the other hand, maintains a critical distance by functioning as nothing but an artistic endeavor. The Delmar installation at DUVE is MINT’s fictional headquarters, the imagined office of the startup company, complete with reception and office desks strewn with samples of ad photos, bland paintings (made of matcha, wheatgrass, and a mysterious “detox” powder) in the style of corporate office art, potted plants, and a refrigerator full of bottles of MINT-brand green juice. Hauntingly, it is missing employees.
Visitors to *Headquarters* can’t drink the juice. In the same vein of Pamela Rosencranz’s Smartwater bottles filled with artificial skin colors, the bottles in the fridge are perverted objects of capital, given a heightened value, an invitation for critical contemplation. MINT juice comes in a bottle printed with its price in Mexican dollars, Indonesian rupiahs, Nigerian nairas, and Turkish liras. These countries, chosen for their positions as both exporters of fruit, and emerging marketplaces for the first-world luxury of green juice, compose the startup’s name. When you think of MINT, you’re forced to consider this global exchange.
Across the gallery from the glowing green refrigerator lies a beige exercise ball, alluding again to the practice of selling wellness as a lifestyle brand. Other elements of the installation, like the imperative titles of “live smart,” “live green,” “live mint,” emphasize the imaginary brand’s insistence on selling, at great monetary and ethical cost, a healthy lifestyle. This all-encompassing brand is taken over the top with a head of romaine lettuce perched on a windowsill, signalling two meanings of the word “craze”: the trend of consuming health, and the insanity of taking it too far. As a branding exercise, MINT is unequivocally successful.
*Headquarters* is on view at DUVE Berlin until July 16.