Antidiets and Food as Art

I’m currently reading Antidiets of the Avant-Garde: from Futurist cooking to Eat Art by Cecilia Novero. The book sets out to explore the “performative quality in food and eating as they manifest themselves in avant-garde manifestos, magazines, declarations, instructions, and so forth, as well as, surprisingly, in actual cookbooks” (ix).

The discussion offers a renewed awareness about the ways that food practices can reify nationalist discourses and stabilize subjectivities. In other words, the book asks us to examine connections between our eating habits and our identities; it disrupts our cultural conceptions of “good taste;” it makes us think twice about those smells that comfort us and make us feel at home. I’ll write more on this later, as I am currently crafting a formal book review.

Reading Antidiets led me to explore some contemporary artists working with food. I found several fascinating people, but I’d like to share two with you right now.

The first is James Reynolds. His series, entitled “Last Suppers,” documents the last meals of prisoners formerly on Death Row.

The austere photographs unsettle as they visualize a tension between the pleasure of food (ideas about what is desirable), the torture of deprivation, and the inevitability of death.

The second is John Rubin. Like the artists from the neo-avant-garde movement of the 1960s and 1970s, he opened a restaurant designed to disturb and force political reflection through the ingestion of food. His restaurant in Pittsburgh, named “Conflict Cafe,” only serves meals from countries that the United States situates as dangerous and as potential arenas of conflict.

Here, the ingestion of “foreign foods,” which literally give life to the body and then comprise the body’s materiality, serve to undermine, from the very first bite, the “Othering” of the people of these nations and the perception that their cultures are lethal.

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