zaterdag 15 januari 2011

So what about 'foraging'? And what about 'art'? And what about the 'hype'?

Foraging pine needles, yummie, taken from a Phaidon cook it raw series
"Possibly the arts are well placed to lead an ecological insurrection by again valuing food as contiguous with cultural production, and possibly the arts are well placed to be radical again as it continues to attract odd bods and those that are not so well adjusted to a ‘profoundly sick society’ (Jiddu Krishnamurti)" - Patrick Jones.
The above quote, taken from an article by the yam foraging slow poet/Permapoesis blogger/homesteader from  the People's Republic of Abba has been on my mind for a while. What does it mean in relation to art that reflects on foraging and how does it tie in with the recent discovery of Neanderthal cooking (as understood from food traced in fossilized dental plaque, a discovery that immediately led to all sorts of speculation about the lifestyle and cognitive abilities of the 'other humans') ... and ... what do mean when we use the word 'art', exactly?: 
"The aura of fashionable sophistication that surrounds the world of the arts today tends to obscure their fundamental role in society: to provide basic vehicles for speculative inquiry into the nature of human experience."  
The above quote is from an obscure source, (Daniel M. Mendelowitz, Children as Artists, Stanford University Press, 1963) but it brilliantly formulates something that is at least implicit in the work of all my favourite 'artists': the museum, the gallery, all those pretentious bullshitters scavenging for leftover crumbs that have fallen from the art funding table have nothing to do with art, they are part of a totally corrupt and self-serving financial system.
"Always watch the quiet ones at the back, all they want is the smallest scrap" - Crass
Food as culture, cooking as art. 

Consider Rene Redzepi (earlier) whose restaurant Noma has moved away from the exalted spheres of fine dining into canteen like atmosphere serving Ikea-patterned foraged goods with intentionally mismatched cutlery. I hadn't realized this earlier but Redzepi's first book was marketed, to all intents and purposes, as an art book: as an expensive limited edition collectors item with the size of a large handbag. Given that most of the recipes are impossible to reproduce for a home cook and they often rely on Nordic ingredients it was not even a cookery book but a catalogue. Such tactics can backfire: once you are in fashion you must go, no you will be brought, out of fashion. Redzepi is even being Assanged as a criminal when sharing his knowledge with the public.  

Here is a fragment of Catherine Phipps review of cooking books of 2010: 
The inaccessible Noma Cookbook... I loved it, but was also incredibly frustrated by it – due to the specialist kit needed the dishes are nigh on impossible to recreate at home. I know it's not really the point of this sort of book, but looking at the photographs made me feel like a child squashed up against the sweetshop window; unable to get in.
Redzepi is the King of the Locavores, and with the Noma Cookbook that particular movement probably reached its peak. I think we're now moving away from books which focus on the local and seasonal, which have so dominated the past few years. This has to be a good thing - there is only so much you can say about our own produce without being repetitive, and going foraging to discover more outlandish ingredients is unrealistic for most of us and is even causing controversy with environmentalists.
That's what happens if you prefer a glossy tome over a Xeroxed zine like Nancy Klehm's "reap where you did not sow, a guide to urban foraging' or Edible, Medicinal, & Utilitarian Plants, Volume I. Art conveys prestige but at a Faustian price. Hohum...

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