Art/Food roundup 1: Food as Media

Robin Dluzen

When we put out a call online for ‘art and food,’ we received an incredible response from our Facebook friends, nominating local artists who make work about food, or make work with food, or both!

First up: Food as Media

Food as Media, Rakowitz

The meeting of food and art is not that uncommon in art history; from Gordon Matta-Clark’s restaurant Food in 1971, to Rirkrit Tiravanija’s early-90s Thai cooking installations, the rotting lettuce of Mika Rottenberg, or the meat dinosaur in formaldehyde by Xu Zhen, the presence of food in an artwork is always powerful, no matter if an artist’s goals are related to humor, politics, social commentary or relational aesthetics.

Here in Chicago, there are a number of artists both challenging this tradition, and also building upon it:

Gitte Bog– uses food in her practice to facilitate learning and collaboration, most specifically through cooking. Recent projects include a 2009 project at Hyde Park Art Center in which she had visitors estimate what they thought were ingredients in soups from other countries, and a workshop (during her residency with threewalls) with CPS Teaching Artists in which vegetables were used to first make portraits, then subsequently, soup for everyone to share. Bog was also the International Artist-in-Residence at the West Chicago City Museum in May 2010.

Michael Rakowitz– is a Chicago-based artist who has exhibited and been included in collections worldwide, is known for his political works addressing such issues as homelessness, war, and Iraq-US relations. The latter example is made evident through his ongoing Enemy Kitchen project, initiated in 2004, in which the artist teaches audiences how to cook Baghdadi-style cuisine, creating a context for open discussion. Enemy Kitchen is often performed with school children, but on Memorial Day 2009, was a barbecue with the Chicago chapters of Iraq Veterans Against The War (IVAW) and Vietnam Veterans Against The War (VVAW) at the National Vietnam Veterans Art Museum. Rakowitz is a faculty member at Northwestern University in the Art Theory and Practice department.

Food as Media, Bog

Barbara Koenen– maintains a practice in which the notions of peace and war are omnipresent. Inspired by the peaceful practice of Tibetan sand mandalas, and the war-time imagery of Afghan war rugs, Koenen creates her own floor-bound works out of herbs, spices and colored sugars. This practice originally began guerilla-style on the streets, but has since been invited indoors—even into the MCA in 2007. Koenen has also employed pomegranates in her work, explaining that the words for “pomegranate” and “grenade” are the same in many languages including Hebrew and Indonesian. Koenen is the director for Chicago Artists Resource.