Within an increasingly globalised yet atomised society, food can be used as a medium or lens to critically view the relation between humans and their community, ecology, or themselves. What can fermenting, brewing, baking, and eating teach us about how we relate to our environment? What happens when we trace back the journey of what we eat, and step outside of the paradigm of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ consumers? After all, we are living through an extraordinary time where we have been unable to break bread with one another for quite a while. At the time of printing, it is harvest season, and restrictions on eating out are being eased gradually. We hope this issue can act as a prelude to a summer, where acts of cooking and eating together can be enjoyed together safely once again.
With “Sweet Teeth,” Martin Essemann ponders the relationship between the art world, its audience, and eating in our post-Bishopian landscape. Does sitting down to enjoy Korean corn tea and sweets together in a gallery (see also in this issue: Tiffany Lai’s article on the performance Tar for Mortar by the collective Comfort Ball) mean that the audience ignores any ‘friction’ in favour of sweetness? Essemann draws parallels to both popular food media and institutional critique to show that this does not have to be the case at all.
In “Growing Food, Growing Earth, Growing Knowledge,” Rosa Mulder explores the potential of food to actively rewrite our environment and challenge the harmful monocultural landscapes we find ourselves in. By delving into Enzyme, an art project by the Brazilian artists Jorgge Menna Baretto and Joelson Bugilla, Mulder traces the entangled relations between humans, food, and the environment. Thinking through more diverse landscapes, Mulders shows how we can grow into an inclusive fertility that feeds not only economical profit but rather our knowledge and existence as a multispecies.
Maxime Garcia Diaz traces the contours of the body’s boundaries and the meisjes living through ‘the bulimic turn in the early 2010s.’ In Albufeira, on the beach, in their locked bathrooms; this teen dream is metallic mint green and blue-eyed like an iPhone. On the menu: destruction and resurrection.
Lisa Spooren explores the ‘not-so-still’ still lifes of Giovanna Garzoni (1600-1670). Her vivid compositions of fruit, flowers, and insects invite the spectator to enter the dynamic worlds she conjures in her paintings: these are memento vitae that breathe life into the genre.
Elena Braida shares her recipe for conviviality with the reader. Translated loosely as being together, or being-with, the practice of conviviality is explored through the medium of the recipe; instructions written down to be followed again and again as a ritual. Through typed and handwritten lines, cut and assembled images, browsing Braida’s recipes allows its followers to become aware of coexisting with their surroundings in new ways.
The dinner table is a place of meeting. A gathering of bodies chewing on food and conversation. It is also the place around which Parel Strik hosts her project The Dinner of Society. She invites you, the reader, to join her on an exploration that brings together people and their stories. While plates melt and sauces flow, Strik attempts to challenge our polarised and individualistic manners. In The Dinner of Society, food is served as a glue that tastes of reconnection and encourages communal interaction.
Tiffany Lai writes on the performative and collaborative art piece Tar For Mortar by artists Sumin Lee and Bin Koh of the collective Comfort Ball. The food-based and workshop-led collective explores the role of food in an apocalyptic future, in which food scarcity is prevalent. Their works trace narratives of a near future while drawing up on past traditions and create space to open up conversations on the fetishisation and postcolonialism that lies in the middle of these.
Eli Witteman explores the often overlooked relations between eating disorders and transgender identities. Why is disordered eating or a body image generally associated with teenage girls, and why is that harmful? What are the relations between gender dysphoria and body dysmorphia? Part essay and part therapeutic writing practice, Witteman successfully portrays how even the seemingly most personal matters, such as one’s relation with food and eating, are embedded in gender binary ideology and patriarchal structures.
The ‘peach scene’ in Call Me By Your Name (2017) and the common symbolism of emojis are a testament to the sensuality of fruit’s juiciness. These connotations cannot be disentangled from gendered and colonial structures of thinking, as Maya Reus illustrates. She turns to the abundance of pomological meanings along the Silk Road. This trajectory takes her from her grandfather’s sweet memories of eating fruit in baghs to Ali Akhbar Sadeghi’s (b. 1937) use of the apple in his Coalition series (2001-2002).
Ever since the devil coerced Eve to take that bite of the Forbidden Fruit in the Garden of Eden, womankind has been accused of being untrusty swindlers. In “Poison as a Woman’s Weapon” Anael Ortiz reflects on gender structures of Early Modern Judeo-Christian culture, and portrays how often women were left with no choice other than to poison their husbands. With gender constructs that can be traced back to the first biblical women, Lilith and Eve, as its battleground, Ortiz portrays how food – like women – can turn from a lifegiving and nurturing force into a deadly one.
Food carries many flavours. As a political and social object that can connect people, food works nurturing, providing growth and nutritional support. As a social emulsifier, food brings people together and is the core ingredient of many social recipes and rituals. However, as the intercultural reiterations of Knowles’ Identical Lunch portray, everybody eats, but we don’t all eat the same – and not everybody is offered a seat at the table.
The practice of eating can help us understand global and local infrastructures of food production, consumption, and distribution, and how these intersect with infrastructures of gender, class systems, cultural practices, identity, and community. We hope this issue offers you something to chew on until restaurants open up again, and that when they do, it enriches the experience of the food on your plate.