All You Can Eat: Edible Art At Harvard
Upon entering the exhibit you are immediately drawn to a pile of what appears to be large hunks of turf, haphazardly dumped in the center of the room. As it turns out, these are actually chunks of chocolate, popcorn and caramel, there to be eaten. For some reason it is a disconcerting sight to see tweedy patrons bending down and nibbling at a sculpture.
This is precisely the point that Alhauser, a contemporary German artist, wishes to make. By proving that the museum-going experience can be interactive, she is breaking down the boundaries imposed by museums for centuries. Alhauser does not want her work to be collected because she does not want it to be enshrined in a museum. She is more interested in the viewer’s interaction with her art than with the finished product. Her art is it to be enjoyed—and in turn destroyed—by the audience. Already, much of her original installation has been devoured by ravenous museum-goers.
Alhauser’s site-specific food sculptures are meant to entice and amuse rather than preach. The experience should be a pleasurable and almost hedonistic one. Alhauser uses food as a means of eliciting a playful and childlike response from the viewer. Food is a tool that can be used to enlighten and invigorate a sometimes pedantic art world. Joseph Beuys, one of the most influential artists of the last 50 years, shares Alhauser’s belief that food is healing. Society, which he thinks has become sick and corrupt, can only be reformed through individual creativity. The individual must realize his own creative potential in order to survive. For Beuys, food represents creativity. It is nourishing, life giving and both physically and spiritually cleansing. Food must be separated from the economic shackles that obscure its real purpose. Bueys is particularly interested in products such as margarine, oil and honey because these types of food insulate and produce energy.
In “Untitled,” from the portfolio Artist Mail, 1969, he fills a plastic envelope with margarine, chocolate and brown paint. In “Capri Battery, 1985,” Beuys attaches a lemon to a light bulb to demonstrate the connection between food and energy. In his “Economic Value” various food products ranging from Swiss throat lozenges to whole grain crackers demonstrate Beuy’s social theory that the beneficial nature of food has been tainted by its role as an economic commodity. Beuys uses food in art to propagate his personal beliefs and to promote his desire for social change.
Out of the three artists exhibited in Eat Art, Dieter Roth is the most ironic and perhaps the most macabre. Bertolt Brecht’s idea that we only eat in order to excrete is applicable to his work. The juxtaposition of a lion made out of chocolate (which he calls a self portrait) and bunny made out of excrement reveals that eating is just part of the digestive process. Ironically, after 30 years of decomposition, the chocolate lion is more revolting than the bunny. Roth is poking fun at the heroism and self-aggrandizement that is often associated with sculpture. Beuys does not aim at permanence with his sculptures, but by attempting to defy time they succeed in accepting it and even reveling in it. Like human beings, his works fester and rot. Roth has no interest in being the glorious artist whose work is completed with the final stroke of the chisel. He encourages the changes that time inflicts as his work takes on a life of its own.
“Small Sunset, 1972” continues to mock former paradigms of art. What appears to be a beautiful sunset is actually a slice of a large sausage. What looks like the sun’s rays is actually the sausage’s grease. Roth is questioning accepted ideas of beauty by demonstrating that an old sausage can capture the essence of a sunset just as beautifully as paint can. “Birdplate 3, 1966,” which is made out of chocolate eggs and candy, is oddly powerful with its thick texture and frenetic markings. “Poemeterie, 1968,” which is made out of a plastic bag filled with acrylic and minced mutton, is unnervingly visceral. The bag resembles a body bag and the food, decomposing flesh. It serves as a reminder of the impermanence of life, the beauty of decay, and the ravaging effects of time. Roth’s work is both jarringly disgusting and profoundly moving.
Through December 15