THE HUNGER ARTIST - INVITATION
THE HUNGER ARTIST invites you to join us in an international movement of hunger artists. The practice of Various Artist Marcella.B can be picked up by anyone interested. In the upcoming weeks and months the hunger artist will inform you about the FIVE BEST REASONS to become a hunger artist, about suggested practices to become a serious hunger artists, and about the ethics and politics that conduct the practice. THE HUNGER ARTIST is a practice that overrules the distinction between esthetic politics, spiritual growth, ethical correctness and playful confusion. If you want to join the group just come to http://www.facebook.com/groups/311770432197784/, and if you start up your own HUNGER ARTIST PRACTICE, please keep us informed on these pages.
Some interesting texts for the beginning hunger artist:
Sloterdijks 'Letzte Hungerkunst Kafkas Artistik'
The Experimental Ordinary: Deleuze
on Eating and Anorexic Elegance
FIRST REASON FOR BECOMING A HUNGER ARTIST: GO ON A HUNGER STRIKE FOR A FAIR TRADE IN THE ARTS (if you don't like this one, never mind, i have more reasons coming up)
It has become a burning topic in the food industry to come to an understanding of the different factors that are running the (by now) all-encompassing trade of our alimentary products. Talking about global food production, we have come to the conclusion that making 'healthy' decisions has become an almost impossible task. Faced with the everyday realities of food miles, union support, distribution problems, the non-ecological industrialized farming methods and the subsequent constant production of toxins, etc, we have come to the conclusion that eating healthily, taking care of your body, does not necessarily mean you are taking care of the community nor for the environment. Taking into account the situation of the workers that are producing your food for less than the money they put into their work, as a direct result of the so-called 'free trade' (but heavily subsidized) food policies promoted by the strong industrial food powers, it is hard to find your way around in the shopping isles of your supermarket, but even local shop or farmer's market. In the food industry nothing is what it seems.
If we talk about fair-trade in the food industry therefore we talk about returning to the farmers the right to be paid fairly for what they grow. We talk about the unfairness of the middle men, the refiners of the food, the supermarket chains that push the price up for the customers and down for the growers. We talk about a clear policy on what exactly it means to deal within 'free trade', when the big industrializers are paying massive amounts of money to over-produce bulk food which destroys the healthy price concurrency regulating the markets. We talk about over-subsidizing governments that don't take into account the needs of the farmers nor of the consumers. But most of all we talk about the right to decide how and what to grow (from the farmer's side) and to be able to make healthy and informed decisions on the part of the consumer.
If we talk about the arts market, we have also come to a stand-still. Policy makers and commissions, curators and programmers, everyone is trying to make sense of something that should be fairly simple. There are artists producing a multicultural (in opposition to the monoculture agricultural practices, ruining the fair chance of the farmers) menu of practices and art works, and there is an equally multi-oriented public, looking in the arts for a satisfactory reply to questions or cravings as diverse as critical awareness, esthetic pleasure, soothing reassurance, political insights, historical framing, and lots and lots more. What is been happening in the last ten years though (and i'm speaking primarily about the performance arts here) is a subsidizing policy that grew out of a more or less sane self-organizing artists field, and that now has become regulative to an almost absurd height. As pointed out before, the cultural scene in the Netherlands was crushed by its own embrace of neo-liberal Newspeak. In Belgium, the sector is crushed by a an slowly suffocating motherly hug of the subsidiary system. Mom says what we should wear, where we have go to school, how we should behave and present ourselves in public. Mom tells us which words to use in our dossiers, and who to speak to to 'step up' the social ladder. The problem is that also in this sector by now the dice are thrown by the middle men, by the producers and subsidizers. Although of course most of the programmers also are stressed into defending their 'niche format', their 'name' and their 'brand'. Just as the many commission members and cabinet members and other advisors and decision takers probably have the sector's best interest in mind. The problem is not situated with the individuals, trying to grasp the reality of what is happening, and responding accordingly. The problem is that the system little by little has made itself indispensable, has become the (half)hidden ruler of the arts. A system that has produced format after format for production, creation, research, that is now desperately trying to fill in the holes of the raster, but cannot see over its little devising walls what is happening outside. What people are processing outside of these well-prepared holes in the wall. Which is no wonder, since nobody will ever be able what these artists are doing since they didn't fit the profile of the venues they were supposed to be shown of meet the people that might have appreciated what they do. If we talk about a fair-trade in the arts therefore I think we talk about a fair chance, not only for artists, but also for experimental programmers that don't tick all the salonfähig boxes of what is hot today, also the public that often is confronted with a made-to-custom program that is supposed to serve all tastes, and even for policy makers that should not be burdened with the power to decide on who has and who has not. If we talk about a fair-trade we're talking about giving the power (and the money) back to the artsts: let them decide what to do with all these heaps of bricks supposingly hosting the artist's and the public's interest. Let them meet with these publics directly, uncensored, and let them find out what it means to take position. What it means if art again starts to mean that you stand for something, and that we can disagree. Violently or not. And that we can do this directly. Where free trade meets fair-trade. What would the sector look like?
Back to basics: Kafka's short story "A Hunger Artist"
TOOLS FOR THE HUNGER ARTIST
TABLE TALK 1
In the upcoming weeks the hunger artist Marcella.B will organize table talks to discuss some of the central topics in the work around food, arts, sociality etc..
The first table talk had as motive 'quality' and put the question of the parallelism between quality in food (production) and quality in the arts (production) on the table.
This is the score of the first meeting, and a first tool in the instrumentarium of the hunger artist.
TEN TABLE QUESTIONS
ON GLOBAL FOOD AND ART PRODUCTION
Today's topic: Quality
-From one to ten, please go through the questions and tasks, keeping strictly to the time limits
-Fold your paper into an accordion so you can only see one question/task at the time.
-In between two questions refrain from discussing unless the task asks you to.
On your paper, indicate 1, and formulate the 5 elements that for you constitute your understanding of qualitative food. Or, the 5 questions you ask yourself before buying a food item or enter a restaurant when you feel in a responsible mood. After 3m30 pass on your page to the person on the right.
Reformulate the 5 elements/questions concerning the quality of food, to 5 elements/questions that constitute for you the quality of art. Try to stick as close as possible to the previous writer's items, and make up your new list in reaction to his/hers. But also relate as much as possible to your own practice as a worker in the arts, try to keep it concrete. After 4m pass on your page to the person on the right.
Look at the two lists in front of you and try to come up with a basic mapping/drawing of the relation between the two sets of elements. You can use simple rearrangements of terms, or come up with a more elaborate mapping using arrows (indicating relations), drawings, maps, etc... Pass on your paper to the right.
3m + 5m
Out of the drawing/list you see in front of you, try to formulate a question that you think should be central in any discussion about the quality of food in a globalized economy.
After 3m couple up with the person next to you and read out your question (the person most to the right starts). Your partner reformulates the question, makes it more precise, adds or detracts information. You again reformulate, He/She again takes over. After the 5m are over, note down the last question on your paper.
Important: you can only react with ONE question, no discussion opening up. Pass on your paper to the right.
3m + 5m
Out of the drawing/list you see in front of you, try to formulate the question that you think should be central in any discussion about the quality of art in a globalized economy.
After 3m couple up with the person next to you (on the other side than the previous one) and read out your question (the person most to the right starts). Your partner reformulates the question, makes it more precise, adds or detracts information. You again reformulate, He/She again takes over. After the 5m are over, note down the last question on your paper.
Important: you can only react with ONE QUESTION, no discussion opening up.
Pass on your paper to the right.
Now taste the food of on the plate of your partner on the right, and try to identify as many (hidden) ingredients as possible. Write them down and give them a score from 1 to 10, 1 standing for very low quality, 10 standing for very high quality food products. Explain your choice by adding ONE category to your evaluation, indicating a quality parameter (f.e. food miles, cultural value, social significance, production circumstances, ...). Pass on your paper to the right.
Out of the list choose the 3 criteria that you think best fit as quality criteria for the arts, and shortly explain (in one sentence) why you think this is an important quality category for thinking about quality in the arts. Pass on your paper to the right.
Out of everything that has been said and written down, choose one quality criterion for food OR for the arts that you are willing to defend for the rest of the exhibition period (until the exhibition closes). Everybody presents the quality criterion on their choice (in the field of their choice).
Take a piece of paper and tear it up in 4 equal pieces. In preparation for the next discussion, write on each piece of paper a term that you think is essential in talking about global art and food production. Fold your piece of paper in four and put all the pieces in one heap in the center of the table.
In a last silent movement: rearrange all the elements on the table into a mapping of qualitative 'fields'. Everyone can group, rearrange, move objects around. Try to grasp the logics of the other, until everyone agrees the arrangement is finished.
RESULTS TABLE TALK 2: in the second table talk a group of 10 people produced statements on concepts out of the food and art industry, combining them, and passing on their proposal to the next in row to alter. (score mix from everybodys toolbox and d+f practices)
TABLE TALK 2
1. The Food/Art industry has become so institutionalized (Arts) or enterprised (Food) that it has lost its link to an organic social body.
2. It can be interesting to see art as an industrial proces. Like that you can make people work for a living. In that way art becomes social again.
3. In the 21st century the artist as an artisan is disappearing and being substituted by industrial processes.
4. Are Rirkrit Tiravanija's cooking feasts to the social body what the woks he sells to the collectors the inevitable result of an art industry?
5. All social art ends up in the industry (sooner or later)
6. Art IS an industry
7. Money? Is a product, it has an art, it buys food
8. Industry means being busy – let's all be busy together
BALANCE / SOCIAL IMPACT
TASTE / NECESSITY OF ART
SCALE / AESTHETIC VALUE
1. I think it's quite difficult to put an aesthetic value on a scale. This is something personal. That's why I think art contests don't make any sense.
3. Can we say that the bigger the scale of production, the more important aesthetic value becomes but the weaker the quality?
4. We must not forget the human scale when we talk about aesthetic value.
5. Are production scale and aesthetic value inversely proportional?
6. Both are non qualified as measure in the arts.
7. Aesthetic value is an important qualifier as measure of the arts. Scale may validate or not the quality of the arts.
8. What is the weight of something that touches you? Can we measure taste?
9. Bigger is better! Everyone knows that!
10. The scale of aesthetic value is dependent 1. dependent on the market 2. the economy of the times 3.the history of taste
ACCESSIBILITY / POWER OF THE NICHE
1. Accessibility manifesto: '3 Degrees of Separation': My food/All Comes/At least /From the hands of /My friend's friend.
2. The power of the niche in the arts is exactly relating to the 'friendly' politics that close up the sector for a 'fair trade' of artists, curators, programmers and public.
3. I actually don't know what 'niche' means. I could pretend not to have read the 'h' and like that it becomes 'nice'. It is nice to have access.
4. The power of the niche lies in its quality. People should make an effort to discover it. The access to it is maybe not so easy, but definitely there.
5. Niche is what relates to nest. The nest is the home of the birds. Let's rest.
6. Why nest in a niche without granting accessibility to other ideas?
7. The point of a niche is just to have restricted access. Under control.
8. Power and accessibility are mutually exclusive.
9. Difficult to access the power niche.
1. The educational system produces workers for the consumption system.
2. Let us produce more educators! Down with production! (Manifesto n° 2)
3. Education should not be about knowledge production but about knowledge processing: time-based, slow cooking understanding.
5. Education can lead to a better understanding of (art or food) production and can maybe lead to more conscious consuming.
6. When education was transformed into a production chain and became profit-minded, art and food became to be considered irrelevant.
7. When production is validated by consumption, education is unnecessary.
8. Education is highly necessary maybe less so art edu.
9. The production of education validates all forms of human production, art production included.
QUALITY / OBESITY-ANOREXIA
1. mega installations vs. minimal art // serial production = obesity
2. mass production of art vs. inaccessibility of art
3. Always wanting more, even if 'more' is less.
4. Eat good food! Throw away the bathroom scales! (Manifesto n°4)
5. The quality of the artist is his ability to think/act out of the norm. Obesity and anorexia are perfect tools to put these norms into question: breaking the mold of the 'normal'. Not as a victim but as a political refugee.
6. Reminds me of the drawings of Egon Schiele. The people he draws seem to be anorexic.
7. I don't think quality lies in quantity. The tools to get to quality shouldn't overpower production.
8. Obesity and anorexia as contemporary diseases in a world where food and art may be missing or may be excessive.
9. When do we know quality is stopping or continuing?
CURATOR-GALLERY HOLDER / AGRO AGENT (middle man food industry)
1. How important is the middle man (gallery holder or agro agent) for the food or art creation?
2. Nowadays everybody points at the middle man (gallery holder or agro agent) as responsible for the crisis in the market.
3. Is the gallery holder responsible for the obesity of the market, and the artists responsible for the famine of the prodution?
4. That's good one, very nice!
5. Famine in art production brings up the prices, the gallery holder then controls the validity of tha artist?
6. Gallery holder = Agro Agent. Does not produce, will not eat. Necessary? Evil/Good?
7. We are all artists. No such thing as producers and consumers!
8. Gallery holder = Agro agent → Monitoring and 'making' the art/food scene and deciding on its economy. Take out the middle (wo)man!!
9. Produce art as food that you cook in the kitchen. Tasty & Good. P.S. Getting Hungry.
NUTRITIONAL VALUE / ECONOMY OF THE ARTS
1. Nutritional value is inversely related to the economy of the arts.
2. Reminds me of the documentary 'Super Size Me'. A film that sold millions on criticizing the nutritional value of junk food.
3. Nutritionism is a pseudo-science. Economics is ideology (Manifesto n°3)
4. How do we rethink an economy of the arts and what kind of nutrition it should produce? Nutrition for 1. the social body 2. the brain 3. critical attitude 4 political awareness?
5. Reminds me of 'The Hunger Artist'. A free book group that once started.
6. If we would think more about our nutritional values, could we draw a parallel to the impossible values of art and maybe alter these economies?
7. EAT ART NOT FOOD
8. Is art nutritious for the poor? (minded)
9. An economy of means increases the nutritional value of the message of Art.
PERSONAL VALUE / COMMUNITY VALUE
WASTE / SUBSIDIES
1. Why should the subsidies of this exhibition go to waste?
2. Could we use waste instead of subsidies?
3. Food used in art production should not go to waste.
4. The question is where the foods go and where exactly they came from.
5. Scale the butter mountain, Bathe in the lakes of wine.
6. If so much of the subsidies go to waste because of over-regulation and middle men power, the arts should embrace this waste in their politics of revolt.
7. Waste in the sense of garbage is indeed something that creates jobs and as a consequence there is off course money.
8. Maybe waste as an art piece can be a solution for the world's waste problem. Leave it with the people who want to pay for it and store it in their house.
9. Memory is not waste. Memories are the subsidies of the arts.
Hunger as artistic attitude
Working as a hunger artist means you take a distance from the world. Food is what greatly shapes our social relations, our daily schedules, our meetings and our professional environments. Try to imagine not being able to go out for dinner anymore, have a beer with a friend until late in the night, go to a business lunch meeting, have a glorious Sunday brunch with the family. What does it produce if you break off all these easy and light engagements that somehow keep your network, your links with the world outside of you, intact. The hunger artist will always be the one that introduces a kind of friction in the social setting, the one that doesn’t play the game anymore, the one that sits soberly watching the other ones. It is an awkwardness that creates distance, provokes questions, and -more often than not- a certain degree of sceptiscism or even hostility.
For the hunger artist the body turns into a completely different vessel: slowly hollowing itself out it becomes little by little a pure exterior, a testimony of the practice that carries itself outwards into the world, the inner core emptying itself out every day a little bit more. The hunger artist is, to speak in Deleuzian terms, the ultimate Body without Organs. Deleuze speaks about different types of BwO’s: the masochist, the anorexic, the addict, etc... Each of them developing a ‘micro-politics’ that will leave the body undone, stripped of all it organs, of its most essential machinistic sense of functioning. The body seen as a machine that has to be filled up every so many hours is dependent on the food architecture he/she lives in to do so, has formatted his/her social environments to fit into these pigeon holes of meeting and exchanging. In contrast, the Body without Organs opens up the possibility of a body that is no longer mechanic, that frees itself from its dependencies, only to reconstruct them from a new perspective. A BwO is assembled out of a desire for experiment, for the potential breaking through. It pushes the organizational lines of time and space that regulate our ordinary social encounters. ‘If the machine is not a mechanism, and if the body is not an organism, it is always then that desire assembles.’#
The hunger artist, much like the anorexic as Deleuze sees him, reorganizes the social space. When distanced from the initial desire to consume, prompting us into obeisance and consumerism, food items start to tell a completely different story. Walking through the aisles of the super market, the long rows of repetitive food items take on an almost alien characteristic. The absurdity of the abundance of food, of this constant movement of goods from the other side of the world, from the rural areas, into the city, keeping the heart of our community pumping takes on an almost grotesque character. Taking a distance from the food object is a first step into questioning our dependencies. Not only to eating, but to how these food items shape our lives and relations.
The reason the hunger artist is often looked at wearily is because he questions our sense of pleasure and the social bonds that create it. Food has off course more than a nutritional value: food marks the important moments in our lives, food is an indicator of good taste, of worldliness, and of - not unimportant - class. Food places us fixedly on the social map of belonging. We buy certain products because our parents did so, because the advertiser sold me his body image, because of the comfort of its proximity, because of our craving to be ‘filled up’. ‘Comfort food’ as preached on so many TV channels and in countless cook books, is not by coincidence often fatty and ‘nostalgic’: referring to a previous age, childhood recipes which remind us of home, of the clear safe boundaries of a house in proper order. Comfort foods are our vessels of consolation, not by coincidence mostly targeted to single consumers. They are the consolation for not fitting the social pattern (yet). Comfort food is what creates food addicts and a dependency on food as a social and/or professional readjuster. No wonder then, that from this perspective the hunger artist is seen as a loco, and the anorexic as diseased.
But if we look at the hunger artist with a bit more distance, we could argue that he is probably the true ‘relational aesthetics’ manager. Having become a pure exterior, he rearranges the borders of social conduct. If we go back to the anorexic, we see that the ‘I’ of the anorexic undeniably rearranges the fabric of the family constellation. In the same way, if we see the hunger artist practice as a public, artistic practice (which it would have to be to overcome the limits of the narcissistic experience), the ‘I’ of the artist is restructuring the relations among the bodies he is closest to. His collaborators, curators, programmers, public, providers, care-takers and so on. By refusing the imposed organ-ized ways of dealing, by making them impossible to apply through a pure passivity of food denial, he rewrites the potential outcome of the situation introducing this simple moment of openness for what might be there on the other side.
As Deleuze notes the anorexic is not the one that refuses his/her own body, but the one that refuses a particular ideology of the body. Why anorexics as well as overweight people are regarded suspiciously is because they trespass the norm, the middle space, the common ground we all agree on. But if we make a more militant reading of this ab-normalcy we could say that ‘The anorexic void has nothing to do with a lack, it is on the contrary a way of escaping the organic constraint of lack and hunger at the mechanical mealtime.’ The psychiatric reading of anorexic practices or the undue fear of the hunger artist ignore other traditional ways in which these practices were considered spiritually liberating and ascetic practices experimented with for thousands of years. As echoed through the witnessing of these traditions the hunger practice is an emancipatory gesture taking a temporary distance from being subjected to the body’s incessant and dictatorial demands.
During le Château Marcella.B picked up on these intuitions and sent out a call for hunger artists all over the world# (in response to the score of Morice Deslisle), to strive for an artistic practice that is built on social transformation, fair-trade and the rethinking of the relation between our and other bodies out there in the world. In a second phase she works on the development of her ‘Pratiques Anorexiques’ in different, public residency settings. In her practice she point out the parallel between the ways we deal with food and the ways we deal with our arts practices. Using the body as a transformative tool in the exploration of current societal questions off course places the artist right back into a tradition of long-durational body arts. But also, and more importantly in this context, in the middle of a societal debate that is larger and more accessible to a larger group of stakeholders than the restriction to the usual suspects of the arts scene. The hunger and anorexic practices open up a field of debate that can be shared by anyone, offers an opportunity to digest various concerns, and incorporate them into the empty body of the artistic work.
Off course the Hunger Artist is only one way to deal with the questions raised by global food production. Overall the strategies that deal with these questions are based on creating a ‘state of attention’: which can be achieved through creating zones of attentive cooking, building sustainable food architectures, inventing new foods, etc... What the Hunger Artist in this whole debate is a moment of standstill, a period of tranquility in the middle of the roaring velocity of movement and speed that directs our existence. A moment of suspension in the eye of the storm.