Some Thoughts on Art and Food

I’ve been coming into virtual and physical contact with a lot of artwork that is centred around food lately. The preparation of food, dining rituals, food as an art object, and tracing origins of food have all been examined in several projects I’ve taken note of. Thinking back, I realized that the art/food connection has been on my mind for some time.

It may have started for me in the summer of 2004, when I was in Paris and went to the Fondation Cartier. The show on at the time was Pain Couture, an exhibition of bread as art/design object by Jean Paul Gaultier and the French Bakers Guild. The “fashions” crafted out of bread were whimsical and charming, and the smell coming from the bakery downstairs (where, if I recall correctly, a bun with a blue swirl in it cost something like 8 Euros!) was intoxicating.

Later that same year, I took part as the “Montreal node” of the Liveform Telekinetics (LFTK) project. Artists Michelle Teran and Jeff Mann designed a series of kinetic objects that could be controlled at a distance, and that are integrated into table settings to produce festive dining experiences that allow connection over distance. In their own words, LFTK “…re-imagines the familiar objects and utensils of our everyday social spaces as an electronically activated play environment, capable of transmitting over distance the physical presence and social gesture that comprise such a vital element of human interaction. [...] Imagine a shared creation, a social ritual, a dance through objects, an electric dinner-table that is played.” I was lucky enough to attend their picnics in Cesar Chavez Plaza that they held at the ISEA 2006/ZeroOne festival. Though the distance between our two picnic blankets was small, we didn’t have line of sight so the other picnickers could have been on the other side of the world. We connected through the dance of our telematic objects, munching on similar foods, and sharing an iTunes playlist.

A project that will soon be unveiled at the Perimeters, Boundaries, and Borders exhibition in Lancaster, What’s Cooking Grandma? is the latest offering from the Human Beans collective. Human Beans have previously produced a food-related work, albeit tangentially related, with their PowerPizza pizza box/laptop container. In What’s Cooking Grandma?, Human Beans are videotaping Lancaster’s Grandmas as they cook and share their culinary tips and secrets. The videos are then uploaded to the popular video-sharing service, YouTube. They’ve also invited others to videotape their Grandmas and share the videos on YouTube as part of a growing collection.

Other items of note:
Debra Solomon’s wonderful Culiblog
“Bread – Daily and Divine” at the Israel Museum, Jerusalem
MILK project