Today a group exhibition about the deeper layers of food opens in two locations in Budapest.
Jiwon Woo: Mother’s hand taste (photo credit: Hanneke Wetzer)
The exhibition SANTO PALATO – HOLY PALATE is curated by Judit Szalipszki.
Food is a basic need, one of the most essential requirements for life. We eat on workdays and on holidays; food plays a part in the narrative of our everyday rituals and is the protagonist in several religious and secular ceremonies. It evokes a complex system of symbols and metaphors.
Our metabolism is never at rest; digestion is under way while you are reading these lines. We eat from birth to death; in the morning, at noon, and in the evening; in our joy and in our sorrow. We eat alone and in company, slowly and in haste, munching lazily or with vigour, chomping, gobbling, devouring. We consume in restaurants, bistros, markets, pubs ‒ from plastic containers or with silver cutlery. Be it cooked or raw, meat or vegetable, sweet, savoury, bitter, sour, spicy, or smoked, local or exotic ‒ we eat it all. Our food is planted, watered, nursed, reaped, harvested, washed, chopped, kneaded, salted, peppered, spiced, seared, simmered, boiled. We pour it out, stuff it, top it up, covet it ‒ often its pure sight can make our mouths water. We take a bite and it becomes a part of our bodies: chewed, swallowed, digested, and defecated. We gain and lose weight as we obey our appetite, the labyrinthine expectations around eating, or the innumerable sanctions regulating the body.
Beyond the biological reality and its primary function of relieving hunger, food is a complex social phenomenon: it is the alpha and omega of numerous social, cultural, economic, political, and ecological processes. What and how we produce and consume is strongly determined by structures of power. Geographical, financial, medical, religious, philosophical, and identity concerns are all present in our relationship to food. Ideally, food is the source of joy and sensual pleasure. Its consumption is not a mere daily habit, but a communal event that can provide an opportunity for social interaction and enhance social cohesion on the micro level. Diet is a key component of personal, community, or national identity: consuming food or drink may be a form of practicing one’s cultural identity, while the refusal to eat can be a political act. Gastronomic heritage and cooking traditions are passed on from one generation to another not only through recipes and culinary crafts, but also through microorganisms.
Thinking about the future of producing and consuming our food is an urgent task: according to predictions, the Earth’s population will increase by almost 2 billion by 2050, further deepening the gap and tension between famine and overconsumption. Current estimates anticipate that if we were to keep up with the consuming habits of an expanding population, we will have to up our food production by 50% in the next 30 years. FAO prognosticates that although the meat industry is one of the most polluting sectors in terms of its CO2 and methane emissions, meat consumption will increase in numerous countries over the next decades. Our unsustainable consumption habits are closely connected to alarming climate change and other related tendencies, such as the water crisis, overfishing, the deterioration of soil, economic models preferring monoculture over biodiverse farming, and a calamitous waste management system.
The exhibition takes place at two different locations: works presented in the Studio Gallery primarily focus on the ecological aspect of food and eating, while in the Korean Cultural Center’s exhibition space, the connection between food and cultural identity will be on the menu.
Depicting food or using it as a medium has several precedents in the history of art, such as the puritanical or lavish still lives of the Dutch Golden Age; the Futurists’ multi-sensorial banquets; Daniel Spoerri’s snare-pictures and bohemian soirées; the Fluxus artists’ culinary experiments balancing between the edible and the inedible, as well as their conceptual meals and other gestures that turned the mundane act of eating into a form of art (Alison Knowles, George Maciunas); FOOD, the artist-run restaurant in Soho by Gordon-Matta Clark and his colleagues; pop art’s large-scale objects and paintings depicting the consumer culture of the 1950s and ’60s; or the feminist-critical interpretations of food, cooking, and eating (Martha Rosler, Judy Chicago). From the ’90s onwards, artists have increasingly treated meals as catalysts for social or discursive situations (Rirkrit Tiravanija, Michael Rakowitz, Conflict Kitchen). Recently, the list of roles an artist can assume became supplemented with that of the farmer and activist, which can also be interpreted as a form of exodus or a praxis aimed at developing alternative economic models (Fernando Garcia Dory, Ivan Ladislav Galeta, ex-artists’ collective). Over the last few years, there has been a proliferation of projects recounting the story of a given meal or type of food as a postcolonial narrative (Patricia Kaersenhout, the Cooking Sections, Renzo Martens).
In line with the perspectives outlined above, Santopalato focuses not so much on the aesthetic or gastronomic aspects of our diet, but rather examines nutrition, eating, food production, and feeding in their social contexts. The exhibition also presents a few possible, speculative scripts about the future of eating and growing food, because our current unsustainable consumption patterns necessitate the emergence of novel, even seemingly radical alternatives.
*The title Santopalato (Holy Palate) recalls the Futurists’ restaurant in Toronto. Primarily associated with the figure of Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, the movements’ proclamations were phrased in the second wave of Futurism, and should therefore be taken with a pinch of salt: the Manifesto of Futurist Cooking (1930), which was followed by The Futurist Cookbook 2 years later, is imbued with a fair amount of nationalism and macho banter. Nonetheless, the Futurists’ culinary ideas almost predicted today’s molecular gastronomy. Their experiments foreshadowed a diet of (protein) powders that is efficient yet requires only minimal time and energy input; while their performative banquets ‒ based on the harmony (or dissonance) of smells, lights, music, touch, and of course food ‒ anticipated the contemporary trend of multisensory culinary experience, which lends them continuing relevance. (Unfortunately however, the practical application of nutritious radio waves is yet to be figured out.)
Santopalato – Holy Palate
Korean Cultural Center
opening: 29 May 2018, 6pm
on view: 30 May – 31st July 2018
opening: 31 May 2018, 7pm
on view: 1- 30 June 2018
Korean Cultural Center: Szabolcs Barakonyi, Gabó Bartha, Dániel Bozzai, Marcell Esterházy, Andrea Fajgerné Dudás, Viola Fátyol, Luca Gőbölyös, Imre Lepsényi, Dorottya Poór, Eszter Ágnes Szabó, Dominika Trapp, Jiwon Woo, Ilona Németh (lecture)
Studio Gallery: Balázs Antal, Gabó Bartha, Andrea Fajgerné Dudás, Csilla Hódi, Sz.A.F. (Miklós Mécs and Judit Fischer), Isaac Monté, Daniel Parnitzke, Marie Caye & Arvid Jense, Eszter Ágnes Szabó
Melanie Bonajo (screening)
The exhibition is curated by Judit Szalipszki, freelance curator