As a child, I was intensely curious to learn how chocolate was put into cakes, but half-jokingly or not, this was never explained to me very precisely. And now I refuse to understand the process completely, to preserve as accurately as possible a way of being which I will never enjoy again. It seems to be a gesture that balances a more uncomfortable state. Every Sunday there were things doubled by intense conversations about something I couldn’t put my finger on, the adults had a magical earnestness about them that I now sometimes recognise in the way they cook or talk at the table. Food becomes the common denominator of any intimate or collective activity, the engine of everything seen or unseen and a kind of social equalizer once everyone has sat down at the same table. It can be the most personal and at the same time the most politically charged experience; hunger at one end, surplus at the other, food waste as an example of the inability of some systems to protect their citizens, sometimes even from themselves.
Both cooking and eating, like any daily occupation, contain bits of cultural memory that work to define one’s identity. Through the recourse to an affective past (grandparents’ food) or as a process of resilience, we can agree on the powerful political character of food and its capacity for social bonding. In an uncertain context, with few material resources, the act of cooking and the community built around it already constitute a point from which the act of culture can be activated – through myths and stories, ways of interacting or presenting the finished product. Experiments in the area of arts that deal with food in one way or another have become increasingly common today. Paul Neagu invited his visitors to eat a piece of a cake-man. The collective actions involving cooking were a constant feature of last year’s DOCUMENTA 15.
Ana Kun and Noemi Hügel’s installation presents a set of 21 plates and dishes, based on the experiences of 21 people who had been asked about their relationship with food. Was it positive or negative? What would spoil their appetite? The title of the installation, (…) spoils my appetite, refers precisely to this question. The work of the two artists aims to provide a comfortable space for discussing uncomfortable topics, to provide a safe platform for those who are not used to taking a public stance on current issues. The 21 people from Ukraine, Syria, Indonesia, Spain, England and Romania now all live in Timisoara and work in various fields such as: cooking, agriculture, fashion, ceramics, animal protection, art or the production of cultural events. They talk about their own culinary experiences, where childhood and the foods associated with it play a major role. After all, it is about eating together and talking about politics, about topics that seems uncomfortable, about invisible work. The plates painted by Ana Kun show the participants’ answers, each given in the language they have decided to use. They will be activated by presenting the food they each talked about, and reconfigured into a vegan menu conceived by Noemi Hügel. The food is so designed as to create a state of comfort and will be tasted by visitors throughout the exhibition in the form of snacks.
After all, all this is about is people coming together around one of their primary needs – food. A visualization of processes that can be eloquent for anyone in their own privacy. Instances of reasons for discussions and possible futures.