Monday, June 4, 2007
another attempt to define the undefinable
Probably no one is ever going convince me that food cannot be art, certainly not Guardian Unlimited blogger Jonathan Jones in a short (May 17) post titled Food Can Be Artistic, but it can never be art. It seems that Adria has been invited to participate in the Documenta art show in Kassel, Germany and Jones agrees with the some in the Spanish art establishment who are pissed off that he was asked to show on 15 June. Jones agrees that Adria should not have been invited because he is not an artist and his work is not art. He believes that for someone to be considered an artist he must not be afraid to disgust his patrons.
So in Jones' calculus Damien Hirst , who made the sawn cow in formaldehyde depicted above, is a real artist because his art can be disgusting, but someone like Adria cannot be an artist because if he did make something disgusting he'd go out of business.
I'm not buying it. Not everyone who sees Hirst's cow is disgusted (I'm certainly not) and I'm willing to bet that some people heave when they see Adria's spaghetti extruded from an aerosol can.
And WTF? Even if Jones' understanding of art is based on post-modern notions of what art is supposed to be, are we to believe that Roy Lichtenstein is not artist because none of his work evokes disgust, but Andres Serrano is a true artist because he wasn't afraid to snap a picture of Christ in a bucket of piss?
Another popular criticism of chefs who have been called artists, is that what they do can never be considered art because what they make is created primarily for financial gain and not for aesthetic reasons. They are artisans, this line of reasoning concludes, and not to be held in the same esteem as creators of true art. This argument parallels a similar argument made against classifying graphic designers, illustrators and typographers as artists and has about as much credibility, which is to say, very little.
How anyone could look at a typeface like Helvetica, and not be amazed by how the characters define the space they occupy and not think of that as art is beyond my comprehension. Norman Rockwell was dismissed by the fine art world for years because his work was done mostly for covers of the Saturday Evening Post and so could not be art but rather "illustration." Now he is revered as a master and his works sells for millions.
Perhaps the best objection to food as art is that even though it can provoke an aesthetic sometimes life changing experience, because it is a temporary creation and not designed to endure, it should not be included in the pantheon along with statues and paintings and other more tangible works. In other words shouldn't real art stick around for a while so that more than handful of people can experience it?
The trouble with this argument it that it would seem to exclude music, dance and all of the performance arts from the pantheon too.
Perhaps it just might be that real reason so many people object to the idea of food as art and chefs as artists is that even today-even after Piss Christ- our basis for determining what art is, is based on classical, Greco-Roman conceits. And since there is no muse for cooking, chefs must be getting their ideas from somewhere other than the sources of what our ancient cultural ancestors considered to be the wellspring of all artistic inspiration.
Or maybe the ancients just never identified the muse for cooking and she's out there waiting to be heard? Hmm... Maybe I should try an old Homeric trick and try to get her to get her to help me out. And maybe I'll get invited to Documenta. Okay here goes
Sing Muse, sing of the man who wields the knife and tends the grill
Sing in me, and tell of what he made for dinner
Guardian Unlimited: Arts blog - art: Food can be artistic - but it can never be art