I saw the Taste: Food and Feasting in Art exhibition in two parts – with lunch in between. It turns out that you can eat the art.
It wasn’t a painting so no canvas licking on my part. It was an artwork called “Koha“. Most of the write-ups about the exhibition mention it. It’s created from steel pins and chocolate fish (yes, marshmallow chocolate fish). The work was in a hallway space linking two rooms. Walking into it you are enveloped by the smell of chocolate and marshmallow. The artist, Robert Jahnke, created it as a comment on guardianship not ownership of fishing stock. (But I reckon it could apply to any resource.) It feels almost sacrilegious to take part of it away to be eaten. In fact there weren’t many gone the first time I walked through. Obviously people got peckish during lunch as more had disappeared when we came back.
I really like “Koha” in ways that I can’t quite articulate. I think that it raises a lot of questions relating to the artwork (as well as the theme). The chocolate fish is a Kiwi food icon, the default congratulation/commiseration foodstuff. What if the fish changed size? (I’m pretty sure it has got smaller over the years.) What if Kraft (who now own Cadbury) decide not to make any more? Does it matter if the fish face a different direction? (The day we saw it they were facing the other way to the picture on the website. I wanted to change one of the lines so some of the fish were swimming the other way to all the others.) How much did the Gallery pay for it? Do they replace the fish every day? Do they replace ALL the fish every day? What happens to the fish that aren’t eaten? What would it do to the meaning if the fish were cast in resin or preserved in some way so they weren’t edible? Is one of the conditions of the art that it’s hung in a small space so you can smell the fish?
Fish and seafood was a major part of the exhibition which isn’t surprising. Lots of photos of seafood, depictions of fish and a wonderful knitted giant octopus or squid with tiny babies which made me laugh. There were more straight up depictions than I expected. e.g. cooking a hangi, plastic food for Japanese restaurants, doughnuts. I preferred the more abstract things such as “The Last Supper“, 2 minutes 33 seconds, The Global in the Local. The descriptions next to the art were also interesting. One of the paintings “Miracle of loaves and fishes” had a mysterious note saying that it was the last remaining canvas of four. What happened to the other three? Another, well, I’m not sure it’s a highlight, piece that caught my eye was the film by Ed Ruscha called “Premium”. It was interesting to watch the way the food was filmed. Although art it did have the flavour of a cooking show to it, especially in the way the salad was shown in closeup.
I’m not really an art person but I like the way that I’ve come away from the exhibition with more questions than answers.
Until 14 February 2010
Admission: Adult $7, Concession $5, Family Pass $15, Under