Kelp - a new art exhibition which opened at National Museum Cardif
f on 9 June 2013, sees Welsh laverbread re-branded and repackaged for the modern, health conscious consumer.
Kelp is the latest exhibition by Swansea-born artist Dan Rees, which has been developed from his own love of the seaweed-based food a product that he regularly gets sent from Wales to his studio in Berlin.
Seaweed has been used in Asia as a food staple for thousands of years. High in protein and packed full of vitamins, consumers in the west are becoming increasingly aware of its claim to be the new superfood. Yet Dan Rees believes Welsh laverbread remains a niche food, promoted and consumed as a heritage product or a culinary novelty.
In Kelp, the artist challenges this narrow categorisation by using the tool of advertising to launch a new brand of laverbread for a young, stylish, metropolitan consumer. Using a wide range of media from packaging design to photography Dan Rees positions laverbread at the vanguard of a new, green food revolution.
I am interested in looking at the preconceptions about the identity of Wales and the idea that being Celtic is somehow traditional, said Dan Rees. The same product (seaweed) is marketed and sold in Japan and is seen as almost futuristic.
Dan Rees was born in Swansea in 1982. He studied at Camberwell College of Art, London (2001-2004) and the Städelschule, Frankfurt am Main (2007-2009). Recent solo exhibitions include Gravel Master, Goss-Michael Foundation, Dallas (2013); Merthyr Rising, New Galerie, Paris (2012); and Cryogenic Blue, T293, Naples (2011). Dan Rees lives and works in Berlin.
Laverbread - Welsh caviar? For centuries, communities living close to the Welsh coast have taken advantage of the source of food available to them on the beach or coastal rocks. Laverbread, also known as bara lawr, llafan or menyn y môr, was prepared as a commercial product by Glamorgan families, and was sold along with the cockles on the market stalls. At one time, these two items were prepared and sold strictly by low-income families. Eventually their marketing was developed into commercial enterprises of considerable importance. Today laverbread, often called Welsh caviar, has found its way on to delicatessen counters and is offered as an hors d'uvre in first-class restaurants.