Food for Thought 1992

This room-sized mixed media installation is made up of two pieces. Who’s pulling the strings? And The Kitchen.

Food for Thought addresses our basic need for nourishment. As individuals we seek to fulfill our emotional desires through companionship and a sense of community. At the same time the physical needs of all of us can only be met when that community is responsive to these needs. Society balances between an organized goal0oriented body and a chaotic unstructured mass appearing as if it is too fragmented to define itself from within. It is that process of defining ourselves which brings us closer to a sense of community—to fulfilling our desires. Yet ironically this act also separates us and brings us into conflict as the needs of some groups are privileged over the needs of others. While the act of naming ourselves is essential for seeking out others who might nourish us–who won’t make us feel vulnerable—when we take on labels, we also fall into categories with preexisting stereotypes, which fragment and weaken these bonds.

In Who’s pulling the strings? 40 bowls, each with a line from the person’s, encircle the room. Each bowl sits on a shelf which resembles a large dining table which has been cut into small pieces. Above each bowl is an upside down container of salt. Viewers are invited to pull the string above any bowl they choose. The piece points to our implicit acceptance of our own commodification as a substitute for community. The salt has both positive and negative connotations: “the salt of the earth” and “rubbing salt into one’s wounds.” We are both feeding and laying barren in our act of choosing. Depending on the community in which the piece is shown, certain bowls may be left empty a the end of the day or week, when all the bowls are emptied and the process starts again.

The Kitchen is made up of canned and boxed food and forms the elements of a kitchen: stove, counter, sink and refrigerator. Members of the community donated money to the local food bank, which in turn lent the food for the exhibition.

The kitchen seems like an appropriate vehicle for looking at the role of society in nourishing its individual members and for questioning the role of the artist. Can the artist still provide emotional and intellectual nourishment? One would hope we can at least provide a little food for thought.