Food for Thought

Dinner at Laura's
This spring I was lucky to participate in Food for Thought, a class co-taught by Stephanie Smith and Laura Letinsky. The class explored relationships between food culture and contemporary art, utilizing an interdisciplinary framework. We looked at art historical representations of food, mapping the legacy of seventeenth-century still life painting onto modernist interpretations of the still life form, through cubism and Dada, and onto contemporary practices of artists revisiting these motifs, such as Daniel Speorri, and the younger artists he's influenced. The class considered food and eating as both subject and medium for art, but also as its own domain: looking at these intersections as a way to understand broader cultural concerns about production and consumption, sociality and lifestyle. We surveyed readings from social anthropology, and from popular ecologists like Michael Pollan, dealing with interactions between food and fashion: the language of "slow food," "organic," and "foodie," and trends more particular to Chicago's restaurant scene--parsing out what these labels imply about the way we live, and what implications they could have for a social, artistic practice.

A central concern was the relationship between food and performativity in contemporary art, and the different ways in which artists have used food to engage issues of hospitality, generosity, and cultural meaning in their practices. Mirroring the historical and thematic scope of Feast, we looked at the Futurists' project as marking a moment of realization in art, of actively incorporating the meal into a cultural, artistic identity through banquets and manifestos, and using the meal as a medium to give form to major political questions. We related the impulses and images that came out of 1960s-70s performance art both to the form of the Manifesto, and to issues that are getting worked out now among different contemporary art practices, about how to engage socially and critically.

The class was in many ways a collaboration between Laura and Stephanie, and our conversations benefited from their perspectives and experiences as artist and curator. Our small group ranged in academic interests and backgrounds, from first-years in the college to MA students, visual art students to economics students. This collaboration, and the gesture involved in bringing a class of students into the process of conceptualizing Feast, speaks both to the nature of the subject, and to the evolution of the project. The artist visits and meals that took place during the class, with Theaster Gates, Michael Rakowitz, and one with Laura at her apartment, help to illustrate the connections between Food for Thought and Feast, and are central to this conversation.



About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Sarah Beth Mendelsohn published on August 26, 2011 12:00 PM.

Reintroducing the Feast Blog was the previous entry in this blog.

Images from Food for Thought is the next entry in this blog.

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Blog Description

This is an informal curatorial research blog for Feast: Radical Hospitality in Contemporary Art, an exhibition about the meal as a medium for contemporary artists. The exhibition opens at the University of Chicago’s Smart Museum of Art in February 2012.