This webpage is a documentation tool for my research concerned with “performing“ food, as I am developing and testing experimental set-ups centred on (the tension between) affect and factual information. The research is hosted by the a.pass advanced performance and scenography studies at the Postgraduate School of Performing Arts association in Brussels.
The research menu : one Starting point, Main methodology and key issues
One Starting point: A SENSE OF URGENCY
“We have incresingly good knoledge about what is good for human and environmental health, and yet there is a huge gap between our knoledge and policy, precisely because policy change is thighlty constrined by the intersts of giant corporations“Robert Albritton
People are looking for unfettered consumerism. Today readiness and avaialbility are the signs of prosperity. Watermelons in december! On the other hand, sometimes seasonal and locally sourced food is used to indicate social status. The posh foodies. Faster and cheeper are rules imposed by the strong force of the market. But we are oblivious that food is regulated by the rules of life and if we keep designig life out of our systems we design ourself out of life. Food is not a ware and not a commodity. And agribusiness is using more and more water and land to produce this anti-life-highly- maketed-food.
We need food as a performance medium for social campaigns leading to a lasting change.
Methodology in 13 points
The double immigrant: food to illustrate cultural and ethnic differences
I can see how I would have to change the performance to get it right in RO. And of course, here I feel that sometimes a shallow curiosity and a sense of disconnectedness are associated with it, instead of the multiplicity of emotions that comes with reminiscing: “ how it used to be“. I am not just a geographic immigrant (RO-BE) but also a historic immigrant (1980- 2015). Both geographic and historic distance can be bridged trough food.
Food as a prop
Yes, food as prop.
CTRL+F the immaterial imprints: food as memory
I used to love pasta with bread crumbs and sugar when I was small child. For obvious reasons.
Sit down and search your memory. No internet. What does this bring in terms of menu? What is the blend of materials available and how do you take account of them? Such as a full panic attack when after years and years, I prepare Rose hip tea and drink a cup. The taste triggers such a reaction that for a few seconds I am convinced I somehow poisoned myself. En fin…
The food/fest as the focal point of the performance
What you see and don`t see, is what you get.
Make it personal: learn from exposure
Paul Bloomfield: “Never do a performance that you yourself would not learn from“
There can be a lot of space for contrast in the performance (i.e. I suffer from social anxiety). By working against my usual comfort zone, this contrast can be embodied. Risk and opening up will create the chance for a community. What does this individuation do for you? What does it produce for your research?
“Not only can change be rapid if you work with the natural process through which the clients are creating and fuelling their own problems, and less with the content of those problems. Once you start dealing with the content, you forget the fact that everyone processes information differently so, in reality , you are selling an ideology, instead of provoking change.“
Appeal to self-interest and identity.
Robin Faure: “Don`t tell it! Become it! People need to go through it to feel it. Not to be “informed“ about it.“
Gaps to open up
Open up gaps of understanding rather than always trying to fill them in. What appears between theory and practice? What would be a model for opening up the research, like this? You can star from the fact that food is an interdisciplinary research subject.
How do we find the essential core of our ideas? We must create ideas that are both, profound and simple.
Food for social campaigning
Food is a political, ritual and performative matter. Politics is the ultimate fiction. Your body is the ultimate fiction Food is the ultimate fiction.
Campaigns can be on the one hand meant to break down an undesired behaviour or to stimulate
- behaviour which is desirable for life in general; an attempt to communicate
- ideas and practices through performance and interpersonal communication.
How do we get our audience to pay attention to our ideas, and how do we maintain their interest when we need time to get the ideas across? We need to violate people’s expectations. Get people’s attention by surprising them and break their guessing machines. Hold their attention by creating a mystery to hold their interest.
How do we make our ideas clear? We must explain ideas to you in terms of human actions and in terms of sensory information, use concrete images. Help people understand and remember, make abstraction concrete and put people into the story.
How do we get people to act on our ideas? We tell stories. Use stories as simulation and inspiration
ELEVEN KEY ISSUES
MEANING of food
In food performances the food is the object, subject and symbolic source of meaning constructions. Sensory stimulations offer basic information. Throughout the performance the sensory interplay generates meaning.
What is the degree of clarity that sensory information gives us? I.E. How refined can the language of taste be? What kind of precise information can the materiality of food transmit?
FOOD AS ART
Elizabeth Telfer: “The universality of eating might make some argue that there cannot be an art of food: appreciation of the arts requires a cultivated understanding but everyone eats so there cannot be an art of food. It will by now be clear this argument is confused. At all eating is an aesthetic activity. Aesthetic eating, if I may call it like this, is eating with attention and discernment food which repays attention and discernment. And to achieve attention and discernment it may well take some practice and some instruction. On the other hand, the art of food is easier to appreciate than arts which require a lot of background information; the art of food is possible a people`s art.“
… and a community kitchen would best fit this “people`s art“.
THE NOURISHING STORY
What are the components that make up the energy content of the story? What are the Fat, Proteins, Carbohydrates, Organic acids, Polyols and Fibber that make up the kilo caloric value of the story?
Relationship. Connection. Meaning. And the paradox of the personal universal: it is not about me but it is about me. Though our food and wishes may be different, we all have the same needs.
CUSINE AS DISCOURSE
Food is physical, conceptual, experimental, etc., depending on the nature and content of the ideas, concepts and paradigms that season it. Half of the food performance is designing the experience around food.
Roland Barthes: “To eat is a behaviour that develops beyond its own ends, replacing, summing up, and signalizing other behaviours, and it is for these reasons that it is a sign (…) food is also charged with signifying the situation in which it is used. It has a twofold value, being nutrition as well as protocol, and its value as protocol, and its value as protocol becomes more increasingly more important as soon as the basic needs are satisfied, as they are in France. In other worlds, we might say that in contemporary French society food has a constant tendency to transform itself into a situation.“
Paul Bloomfiled: “Bad food. That`s what will get people searching their minds“
That`s right, good food is complacent.
Food is alive and reaching out to us. If you think I`m crazy or naive and sentimental, for a while try cooking the same dish or similar dishes with ingredients sourced from 2 very different locations (i.e. bios-tore and super-store). Besides being a political act, trough your cooking, the materiality of food will take you somewhere you did not know you wanted to go.
FOOD & FOCUS (DROP)
Food creates a focus drop! simply put it distracts people`s attention and takes them without warning into different realms, interior or exterior, past or future. Sometimes no one is really aware of this.
Also people have certain expectations when we talk about a food performance – I think most would be happy with a “Heston`s Feasts“ version where if you don`t “get the art“ at least you eat well. And this focus drop and consumerism consumption expectations make it hard to problematise at times as food can be very unproblematic since “eating is so right“.
FUTURE OF THE RESEARCH
Timing and discipline are crucial factors that determine the quality of the research process. Finding ways to support the community kitchen will determine the existence of the research. The research will be carried out by using various focus points: the menu, the dinner occasion, the cookbook or recipes as scores, the chef persona(s), etc. each of these bringing a new kind of attention and openness to the audience. Ultimately the performing food research project. Ultimately performing food will need to be sharp. Ultimately performing food will need to be sharp training and campaign tool (there will however be clear differences in between education and activism initiatives) for sustainable production and consumption; this beyond its entertaining value. It is a tool of construction/formation.
TAXONOMY AND THE DOUBLE RESEARCH
“Part of the problem of trying to consider the operations of the sense in the performance is the role of language as the limiting function in our description of, or even perception of, artistic experience.“ Stephen de Benedetto.
The need for a language to describe the performing food project has lead to the multiplication of the research: artistic practice and a constant chase for proximate genus and the specific differences. And this is rather difficult given the time and the fact that performance practices do not subscribe to traditional definitions of medium and genre.
Working with the functions of the food service, the emotional and perceptive dimensions of food and the materiality of food, I did manage to develop a few parameters that make the work predictable, communicable and reproducible so we can script the food experiences.
WHY DO YOU NEED AN AUDIENCE? WHAT KIND OF AFFECT ARE YOU TRYING TO PROVOKE?
Food gets people universally excited. The relationship that people have with thier food, with themselves and with eachoter is made evident trough interaction, in the time following the initial excitement. Hospitality and conviviality are part of the experience and makeup of the overall message. What kind of environment would be most helpful for the research? A community kitchen!
A SENSE OF URGENCY. WHY NOW?
“We have increasingly good knowledge about what is good for human and environmental health, and yet there is a huge gap between our knowledge and policy, precisely because policy change is tightly constrained by the interests of giant corporations“ Robert Albritton
People are looking for unfettered consumerism. Today readiness and availability are the signs of prosperity. Watermelons in December! On the other hand, sometimes seasonal and locally sourced food is used to indicate social status. The posh foodies. Faster and cheaper are rules imposed by the strong force of the market. But we are oblivious that food is regulated by the rules of life and if we keep designing life out of our systems we design yourself out of life. Food is not aware and not a commodity. And agribusiness is using more and more water and land to produce this anti-life-highly- marketed-food.