After reflecting on the huge body of work I made during my degree, I soon realised that often I used food as a material in my work. Whether this be bell peppers, mince meat, or lard (amongst other items), food is a material I have used for nostalgic purposes to convey a multitude of concepts. Therefore, I have decided to revisit the idea of using food in my work, and look more closely at the relevance of food for myself, as well as look at other artists who have used food in their practices for a multitude of reasons.
For me, using food is again about highlighting the process. When I made work using bell peppers, I documented the slow rotting of a bell pepper to explore themes of deterioration as a concept and a physicality. I finally filmed myself destroying the bell pepper as a cathartic exercise to signal the end of that particular body of work. Again when I used lard as a material, I did this to explore the ephemerality and ever-changing quality of the internal state, using the lard as a vehicle to do so. I also have a distinct need to use my hands (or another body part) in whatever work I make. Whether this be painting, sculpture or performance, I have to have that raw connection in my work, just like cooking. I love the feel of making pastry or bread, just as much as I love the feel of material- it seems more personal and sincere. Throughout the research stages of my work, I have referenced artists such as Bobby Baker and Martha Rosler, who have used food as a process in their own work. The more I research into using food as a material or as a foundation for art practice, the more I become fascinated by its qualities. It can emphasise themes of domesticity, suggest biographical and cultural themes, as well as capture an audience. To me, this is because food is so highly relatable and can conjure memories so diverse, it may even go beyond the artist’s intentions- and that’s ok.
Recently, I have been reading Performance Artists Talking in the Eighties by Linda M. Montano (compilation), where I found an interview Montano conducted with Nancy Barber (Excerpt below). In this excerpt, Barber talks about food as a meditation and a way to relax. I related to this, but used food to show the opposite in my previous works. For It Wasn’t Meant to be Like This (It Was meant to be Like This), I manipulated the lard in a very meditative way, though rather than the result being relaxing, it was in fact a visual way of showing the emotional torment I was feeling at the time of filming the piece. It was in no way a relaxing piece.
Montano: Did that working with food and video affect your relationship to food?
Barber: It expanded and relaxed it, and I found out more about food and food preparation. It gave me knowledge and accelerated the pro- cess of finding out that food didn’t matter. I like the interaction with people much better.
Montano: Do you see food meditatively?
Barber: Sure, it’s the cutting and chopping—it’s good raw material for meditation.
Therefore, for my current work, I am researching and thinking about foodstuff that could be explored. Whatever this may be, I know it needs to be biographical, showing a process of some kind, and maybe even highlighting the cultural themes surrounding this foodstuff.
Featured Image: Martha Rosler (1975) Semiotics of the Kitchen, taken from http://blogs.walkerart.org/filmvideo/2011/11/29/u-of-m-student-responds-to-semiotics-of-the-kitchen/
Photograph in Text: Samantha Dobson (2014) Shrivelled Bell Pepper, Image Courtesy of the Artist.