Sonja Alhäuser, Emsrausch, 2008. Performance with butter sculptures, seafood, various foods, surveillance cameras, miniature watercolors, Künstlerhaus Schloß Balmoral, Bad Ems. Photo by Carsten Gliese. Courtesy of the artist.
Lee Mingwei, The Dining Project, 1998, documentary photo of performance at the Whitney Museum of Art. Courtesy of the artist and Lombard-Freid Projects.
Laura Letinsky, Rome, 2009, Chromogenic print. Courtesy of the artist and Yancey Richardson, New York.
Marina Abramovi? and Ulay, Communist Body / Fascist Body, Performance, Zoutkeetsgracht 116 / 118, Amsterdam, November 30, 1979. Courtesy of the Marina Abramovi? Archives. © Marina Abramovi?.
Sudsiri Pui-Ock, still from The Dinner, 2005, Single-channel video. Courtesy of the artist.
Daniel Spoerri, Tableau piege, 17. Juni 1972, 1972, Assemblage on wood. Smart Museum of Art, The University of Chicago, Purchase, The Paul and Miriam Kirkley Fund for Acquisitions, 2011.40.
Smart Museum of Art
5550 South Greenwood Avenue
Radical Hospitality in Contemporary Art
February 16-June 10, 2012
From the 1930 Manifesto of Futurist Cooking to a new food truck serving Iraqi cuisine on the streets of Chicago, the University of Chicago’s Smart Museum of Art surveys the history of the artist-orchestrated meal in the exhibition Feast: Radical Hospitality in Contemporary Art. Through a presentation within the Smart and new commissions in public spaces, the exhibition serves up the work of more than thirty artists and artists groups who have transformed the simple act of sharing food and drink with others into a radical form of hospitality that punctures everyday experience.
“Eating together is a basic element of human culture,” said Stephanie Smith, the exhibition’s organizer and Deputy Director and Chief Curator of the Smart Museum of Art. “But it wasn’t until the last few decades that artists began to experiment with the aesthetic potential of the shared meal itself and craft provocative, meal-based projects that foster critical engagement with the world around us.”
Feast, the first exhibition of its kind, surveys the emergence of the artist-orchestrated meal, assessing its roots in early-twentieth century European avant-garde art, its development over the past decades within Western art, and its current global ubiquity. The exhibition introduces new artists and contextualizes their work in relation to some of the most influential artists of the last century — from the Italian Futurists and Gordon Matta-Clark to Marina Abramovic and Rirkrit Tiravanija. It also presents new and restaged projects that allow the public to experience first hand the ways in which artists are using the meal as a catalyst for artistic expression.
Feast opens with a public reception on Wednesday, February 15, from 7:30-9 pm. The evening features beer and conversation with conceptual artist Tom Marioni, a performance by Theaster Gates and the Black Monks of Mississippi, and the debut of Michael Rakowitz’s Enemy Kitchen (Food Truck), which will be parked outside the Smart Museum serving regional Iraqi cuisine on limited edition paper replicas of Saddam Hussein’s china.
Artists Feast includes art, documentary materials, and new public projects by a multigenerational roster of artists: Marina Abramovic and Ulay, Sonja Alhäuser, Mary Ellen Carroll, Fallen Fruit, Theaster Gates, Felix Gonzalez-Torres, InCUBATE, the Italian Futurists, Mella Jaarsma, Alison Knowles, Suzanne Lacy, Lee Mingwei, Laura Letinsky, Tom Marioni, Gordon Matta-Clark, Mildred’s Lane, Julio César Morales and Max La Rivère-Hedrick, motiroti, National Bitter Melon Council, Ana Prvacki, Sudsiri Pui-Ock, Michael Rakowitz, Ayman Ramadan, Red76, David Robbins, Allen Ruppersberg, Bonnie Sherk, Barbara T. Smith, Daniel Spoerri, Rirkrit Tiravanija, and others.
Gallery presentation The exhibition is anchored by a presentation of objects and documentary material at the Smart Museum of Art that reveals the many different ways artists have employed meals to advance individual aesthetic goals. The gallery presentation chronicles one-time performances and decades-old participatory pieces through displays that mix food, photography, video, printed material, installation work, paintings, drawings, and archival material. Several pieces have not been seen by the public in decades, and the exhibition is designed in part with an eye toward their long-term preservation.
The earliest material is associated with the Italian Futurists and their founder F.T. Marinetti, who broke open the possibility that food and meals could be used not only as subject matters for art — in traditional still life paintings, or depictions of the Last Supper — but also as the art itself. In the 1960s and 1970s, many artists set aside conventional object-making in favor of idea- and performance-based work, including seminal pieces that involved eating and drinking. By the 1990s, the artist-orchestrated meal became a foundational element of the relational and interactive modes of contemporary art-making. These later examples of social and critical feasts reveal that meal-based projects are no longer limited to the West, but rather have become a truly global practice in art.
New commissions and other highlights In addition to the gallery presentation, Feast invites the active participation of the public and others through a series of meals, salons, and other projects. These take place within the Smart and across Chicago. Lotteries will be held to choose at random the guests for select projects, some are by invitation only, and still others are ongoing or drop-in events open to all. For more information and to enter, visit smartmuseum.uchicago.edu/join-the-feast.
On January 23, the artist Mary Ellen Carroll brings her Itinerant Gastronomy project to town with Open Outcry, a commodities-inspired lunch, discussion, and temporary installation at Chicago’s Board of Trade. The meal takes place within a unique sculptural seating arrangement designed in collaboration with architect Simon Dance. The intimate setting and focused conversation — there will be five questions, one for each course — creates a lasting exchange among the small group of invited guests, including: Jude Becker, farmer, Becker Organic Farms; Terry Duffy, CME Group Executive Chairman; Candace Vogler, philosopher, the University of Chicago; Glenn Wyle, economist, the University of Chicago; and Stephanie Smith, curator, Smart Museum of Art.
Theaster Gates is collaborating with chef Michael Kornick and soul-food expert Erika Dudley to host a series of ritualized dinners at Dorchester Projects, a group of once-vacant homes in the Grand Crossing neighborhood on Chicago’s South Side. A diverse mix of curated guests and members of the public will join Gates for five dinners that will combine meals served on specially commissioned ceramics created in collaboration with Japanese master potter Kouichi Ohara, performance, and discussions around a variety of themes: The Geography of Soul (February 19), The Art of Soul (March 11), The History of Soul (April 15), The Politics of Soul (May 6), and The Community of Soul (June 3).
In collaboration with chefs from Chicago’s Iraqi community, Michael Rakowitz launches a new mobile iteration of his ongoing Enemy Kitchen project. On Sundays and Mondays, Enemy Kitchen (Food Truck) will travel around the city serving a rotating menu of regional Iraqi dishes, with American veterans of the Iraq War acting as servers and sous-chefs. The food will be served on limited edition, paper reproductions of china found in Saddam Hussein’s palaces. The truck’s Twitter address is @EnemyKitchen.
Laura Letinsky will be creating a new photograph from the aftermath of a meal she will prepare for her fellow Feast artists. The work is on view within the exhibition at the Smart. In spring 2012, in her role as professor in the University of Chicago’s Department of Visual Art, Letinsky will teach a related course about the intersections between food and contemporary art. (In 2011, Letinsky and curator Stephanie Smith taught a similar course.)
Bay Area-based artist Tom Marioni’s long-running salon The Act of Drinking Beer With Friends is the Highest Form of Art will be staged in the Smart’s galleries on a series of evenings over the course of the exhibition (February 15, March 1, April 5, May 3, and June 7). Guest bartenders — including Museum of Contemporary Art Director Madeleine Grynsztejn, hip-hop group BBU, theater collective the Neo-Futurists, and other Chicago notables — will serve the free beer.
Five guests, chosen by lottery, will have the opportunity to dine one-on-one with artist Lee Mingwei in the Smart’s galleries, after hours, within an elegant sculptural installation. The artist will prepare the simple meals himself. First presented in 1997, The Dining Project has been staged at museums around the world.
A highlight of the symposium on May 4-5 will be the world premiere presentation of artist Alison Knowles’s Identical Lunch Symphony. Building on her classic 1960s Fluxus scores, Knowles will conduct performers who will use blenders to mix the components of her habitual lunch — a tuna fish sandwich with butter and lettuce, no mayo, and a cup of soup or glass of buttermilk — which then will be served to the audience.