It is not often that I dine on phallus made out of pork fat, filled with dumplings.
Similarly, to say that the place is ‘dedicated’ to salo – Ukrainian ‘national’ product of cured pork fat (on which read more here) is not quite correct.
So, what is this place all about?
Well, the very first thing that meet you on entrance is the Largest in the world heart made out of salo.
The lard heart is in a glass box and it beats. The sign says ‘Salo is a concentrated energy, a quintessence of national values’. Indeed.
There are paintings and posters, that take world-famous images and add things (salo) to them…such as (my personal favourite):
Or political/historical figures made out of lard – to be looked at, and then eaten (sometimes filled with vareniki, another Ukrainian national dish, dumplings stuffed with meat or veg)..
So, what the f… is the idea?
In Russian there’s a great word that describes well this enterprise I think – styob.
Styob is piss taking really, but it is not just a ha-ha joke. There is a clear thought behind the joke (although the thought may be quite multileveled and so not easily put into one sensence), irony, dark irony.
And of course a bit of provocation.
Taking Ukraine’s ‘national’ product (my quotes are intentional as I’m sure you understand) and ‘selling it’, as some locals fairly angrily told me, is done here quite on purpose.
You take the largest stereotype of Ukraine (aside from Chernobyl of course) and invert it. You play with it, you tressure it, put it on an altar, but also pollute it, blaspheme it.
Do I need to say that fucking about with stereotypes unsettles the very foundations of conservatism, of our fundumental beliefs that something IS just good, and that another thing IS just NOT good? It draws the attention to the long line of muddled reasons that have made something innately worthy, such as nationalism, patriotism, racism and many other sm’s…
Salo, lard is brilliant for such a cultural provocation of course, with its low culture, belly-level connotation. It’s both sexual and gluttonous. But salo is also a product that is highly nutritious, good for you, it lasts for many months and it saved many a family in long, harsh winters.
No good table, or social gathering could be without vodka and a few goodly slices of salo. It’s the very stuff of life.
Boris explains to me that the idea came to him whilst meditating, philosophising about the world – as it happanes, naturally…
Clearly, there is a healthy (?) doze of, what Russians call, epatage, here, a sort of a artistic provocation, with an aim to get a reaction. Pee-Ar, as locals say.
The museum has already seen many figures of Moscow and Kiev beau-monde visiting it, being seen in it, performing in it (the daddy, Grebenshikov anyone?). The guys who run the place are obviously beyond their poor studenty days and are more of a glamorous, cosmopolitan crowd under the influence operating within a firmly capitalist world, rather than pennyless dissidents, aiming to bring about some felt political change in a country that desperately needs it….
Nevertheless, Lviv and Ukraine is definitely in need of a space, art or otherwise, that breaks the norms. These are not my words by the way but of the young clientele of the Museum.
‘Сало – это когда никто не ебёт мозги и есть немного денег на сало.’
‘Salo is when no one fucks you about and you’ve got a bit of money to buy salo’.
I like this well-publised Boris’s statement, which kinda brings me full circle – salo matters. It is not just a brand (and the museum-organisers know that). There are some very tangible reasons for salo to be what it is and to mean what it does. During the Orange revolution when diverse parts of the country split in many parts came together, the language, the dialects were different, but salo….salo was what everyone understood.
Salo is associaed with being handsomely well-off – not rich, but well-healed, with a full belly, when you can afford some headspace to think things beyound your four walls, or the boundaries of your country.
Long live salo, dare I say.
Address: Svobody avenue, 6/8, Lviv, Ukraine