Saturday, February 27, 2016

From Columbus to Celebrity chefs: How Food Helped Shape History

"Parrots and Fruit with Other Birds and a Squirrel," Tobias Stranover, c. 1710

Food. Food is essential to sustain life, has had a massive impact on the planet's environment, caused conflict between peoples and nations throughout history, and been a source of inspiration for artists and a source of entertainment for modern television audiences tuning into the latest episode of "Cutthroat Kitchen." Despite the undeniable and overwhelming importance of food, the study of the history of food remains an emerging field. It was with this in mind that Paul Freedman, a professor at Yale University, began teaching a course entitled "The History of Food" in 2009.

Freedman believes that studying the history of food can tell modern historians a lot about societies of the past, including what their diets looked like and how they produced food to feed their populations. Additionally, he points out that a number of historical events have been caused by changing tastes, exemplified by demand for sugar. The growing European taste for sugar, which was used in tea, coffee, and sweets such as chocolate, motivated European nations to establish plantations in colonies in Brazil and the Caribbean, which were worked by African slaves sent there for that purpose. Thus, Freedman argues, sugar was a driving factor behind one of the most "cataclysmic movements of people in history." In a similar fashion, expeditions like that of Columbus in 1492 were also motivated by food, this time the desire for spices from India. It is possible to conjecture that European colonization of North America may have been delayed, had Columbus not been searching for the mouthwatering flavor of Indian spices.

Outside of being a driving factor behind the colonization of the Americas, food has been featured prominently in art throughout the ages, particularly in Dutch still life paintings of the 17th and 18th centuries. Within a still life, food could have allegorical meaning, referring to stories from the Bible or acting as a memento mori, or could function as a symbol of wealth. Depictions of exotic, expensive fruit and nuts were status symbols that reflected the wealth of the owner of the painting. This practice could be compared to how a photo of a bottle of costly cold-pressed juice on Instagram is intended to reflect the wealth of its poster. Food is also an extremely popular source of entertainment for modern television audiences; the existence of the scores of food-related shows that are seemingly always available are evidence of the powerful ability of food to entertain.

Perhaps generations of the future will look back at television shows and Instagram posts to determine how food impacted the lives of those of the 21st century, much like how Freedman have used the historical record to track the effects of food on global history. Whatever the outcome, it is clear that the study of the history of food is one that holds great importance for both the past and the future.

Pierre Javelle and Akiko Ida: The Minimiam Universe

Akiko Ida and Pierre Javelle combine photography, magical landscapes, culinary backdrops, and portraiture to create settings inhabited by diminutive characters, referred to as minimiam. Each diptych reveals to the viewer a whimsical land that plays with our minds, as well as the subject. Akiko, Japanese, has always been attracted to the world of gastronomy. As a child, she invented tiny characters that populated her journal. She is a renowned food photographer. Akiko has participated in more than 30 cookbooks and her work is published in international magazines. Pierre, French, grew up on comics. He is published in major gourmet magazines and his still-like photographs appear in corporate commercials.

The MINIMIAM project morphs multiple genres of photography, including microphotography, culinary art, portraiture and landscape. The action, ranging from sporting scenes to warfare, takes place in carefully staged, fantastic, food settings. In each work, the first image introduces toy-like actors in an ambiguous setting. The second panel reveals the scene’s totality, to an unexpected, often amusing end. Though generally light-hearted and playful, the artists’ work intelligently probes fundamental questions of human perception, and how meaning is constructed and manipulated through images. 

Sophisticated photographic devices form the core of the artists' expression, which both entertain and unsettle the viewer. Using extremely short depths of field with very small apertures, the miniature characters are sharply in focus, while the surrounding landscapes are blurred. At the same time, their diminutive size contrasts with the gigantic surrounding space, allowing the viewer's eye to freely wander around the entire scene. Stage set lighting silhouettes the actors adding drama to the story, and intensifying the textures and colors of the edibles. Our appetite is piqued.


Processed Views at Expo 2015 Milano - Feed a Different Imagination

The nutrition and the resources of our planet are issues of vital urgency. For this we decide to focus on the themes of 2015 Universal Exhibition ‘Feeding the Planet, Energy for Life’, and to launch our own campaign ‘Feed a Different Imagination.' The campaign is free and open to all photographers who want to contribute to inspire our need to deepen and discuss these issues. This initiative is designed by Expo 2015.

On Processed Views:

Processed Views interprets the frontier of industrial food production: the seductive and alarming intersection of nature and technology. As we move further away from the sources of our food, we head into uncharted territory replete with unintended consequences for the environment and for our health.

In our commentary on the landscape of processed foods, we reference the work of photographer, Carleton Watkins (1829-1916). His sublime views framed the American West as a land of endless possibilities and significantly influenced the creation of the first national parks.  However, many of Watkins’ photographs were commissioned by the corporate interests of the day; the railroad, mining, lumber and milling companies. His commissions served as both documentation of and advertisement for the American West. Watkins’ images upheld the popular 19th century notion of Manifest Destiny – America’s bountiful land, inevitably and justifiably utilized by its citizens.

We built these views to examine consumption, progress and the changing landscape.


Saturday, January 23, 2016

Viral Coverage - Processed Views in China, Featureshoot, Food & Wine

GIF of Moonrise on Bologna from Chinese language website, Hokk Fabrica.
Translation of webpage: "Have you ever thought of ham, french fries, sugar Valley circles, these junk food can also be used as the raw material of art? Barbara Ciurej and Lindsay Lochman two photographers as inspiration, a series called 'Processed Views' of art, with a pile of junk food to a natural landscape, remind us, are now in a brutal way consume nature, as well as our health."
Additional coverage of Processed Views appears in:
FeatureShoot (December 2014): Otherworldly Landscapes Made from Junkfood
Food and Wine (January 2015): Look at These Famous Photos of America Recreated with Junkfood

Artists Ponder Food: Tanya Schultz Creates Fantastical Sugar Landscapes

Australian artist Tanya Schultz, otherwise known as Pip & Pop, creates immersive, large scale installations and artworks from a wide range of materials including sugar, glitter, candy, plastic flowers, and other mixed media. Schultz describes her work as, "Often ephemeral, her meticulously constructed and highly detailed works embrace notions of abundance, utopian dreams and fleeting pleasure." She is also "fascinated with ideas of paradise and wish-fulfillment described in folk tales, mythologies and cinema."

Seeing Forever
Tanya Schultz, 2012
Kuandu Biennial, Taipei

Candy Lab
Tanya Schultz, 2014
Mediamatic, Amsterdam

Getty Photographs of Yosemite by Carleton E. Watkins

In this video, Matthew Butson, Vice-President of the Getty Images Archive, examines the now-iconic photographs of Carleton E. Watkins kept within the Archive's vintage vaults. Watkins was one of the earliest American landscape photographers, and in 1861, he set out to capture the untouched landscapes of Yosemite, California. These photographs of Yosemite set Watkin on the path to become, as Butson states, "a pioneering environmental photographer." The large scale of Watkins' images and plates allowed Watkins to reproduce every detail of the vast scenes he photographed. One of Watkins' albums of his Yosemite photographs was shown to President Abraham Lincoln by a senator, which inspired Lincoln to set forth and sign the Yosemite Grant Act in 1864. This Act determined that the area of Yosemite would be held and cared for by the State of California "for public use, resort, and recreation," and not developed by private, commercial enterprises. The preservation of Yosemite National State Park by state and federal resources paved the way for the designation of other national parks and monuments.

View from Camp Grove, Yosemite
Carleton E. Watkins, 1861
Albumen print

Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Artists Ponder Food - Valerie Belin wins 2015 Prix Pictet

The photographs of Valerie Belin speak simply of our 21st century obsessiveness and materialism with a fetid richness that reminds me of my childhood captivation with the paintings of Ivan Albright.
Ivan Albright, Flesh (Smaller than Tears Are the Little Blue Flowers), 1928
The iconography of ValĂ©rie Belin’s photographs is silent. It has that silence that precedes disasters and then follows them. The silence of accidents, the spectacular labyrinths of glass and mirrors, of ceremonies, the bodies and faces where we do not know whether the beings they belonged to are still alive. The absence of any dramatisation, the determination not to strive for effect, come together in the production of images without affection. Even with themes, figures and subjects that bring a whole culture of expressiveness with them.What is this ailment which is both contained and exposed? The paradox that runs through all her work makes up its aesthetic purpose but also seems to be tributary to a situation typical of the history of art in the late 20th century.....That is when the brilliance of black reveals the substance of a morbid aesthetic. Morbidity, despite its first syllable, is not death; it refers to sickness. And so this may be a sick relation with culture described by the delicate treatment of flesh, the very definition of sickly grace: morbidezza. - Michel Poivert
 How appropriate Belin has won this year's Prix Pictet
The mission of Prix Pictet is to the search for photographs that communicate messages of global significance under the broad theme of sustainability. For the Sixth Prix Pictet the theme is Disorder. Previous laureates of the award have been Benoit Aquin (Water), Nadav Kander (Earth), Mitch Epstein (Growth), Luc Delahaye (Power) and Michael Schmidt (Consumption).In his foreword to the accompanying book, Disorder, Kofi Annan writes, “Our times are defined by Disorder – disorder, at the very moment in human history when we almost dared imagine that no problem was beyond our capacity to solve. Remarkable advances in medicine have helped to eradicate scores of formerly fatal diseases. We are capable of breathtaking feats of engineering – raising mighty dams, flood defences and soaring earthquake-proof buildings. Our mastery over manifold aspects of life has deluded us into thinking that we have bent the planet to our will. Yet the fragility of that assumption is exposed with each new pandemic, earthquake, tsunami or drought. With each passing day our illusion of order is shattered.”An exhibition of the images shortlisted for the award will now tour the world. The tour begins at MAXXI in Rome and will then travel to major international museums and galleries including the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum, Geneva; Westbau, Zurich; CAB (Contemporary Art Brussels), the Palau Robert, Barcelona and the Museum of Photographic Art, San Diego. Proposals from other leading galleries and museums are currently under review.

Chips #4, 2004

Bob #5, 2012

Still Life with Vase, 2014

Fruits Baskets, Untitled, 2007

Research: Nature and Language of Plants and Soil

Our hero, Charles Darwin single handedly invented the scientific discipline of biology. Among his greatest teachers were plants and earth creatures living with him on his on his estate: beans, earthworms and beetles, to name a few. In The Power of Movement in Plants (1880) he asserts that plants speak in a chemical vocabulary we can’t directly perceive or comprehend, especially because we are blinded by our own definitions of intelligence and consciousness.  

Michael Pollan discusses recent developments in plant neurobiology, suggesting that it is in humanity's best interests to learn from plant behavior. "Because plants are sensitive and intelligent beings, we are obliged to treat them with some degree of respect."
...The central issue dividing the plant neurobiologists from their critics would appear to be this: Do capabilities such as intelligence, pain perception, learning, and memory require the existence of a brain, as the critics contend, or can they be detached from their neurobiological moorings? The question is as much philosophical as it is scientific, since the answer depends on how these terms get defined....

That plants possess an intelligence is not new knowledge, but according to Modern Farmer, a new study from the University of Missouri shows plants can sense when they are being eaten and send out defense mechanisms to try to stop it from happening.

Plants and soil have a mysterious relationship - friends, cousins, lovers - communing in a specific, miraculous chemical vocabulary we observe, but do not understand. Freelance journalist, author and essayist, Kristin Ohlson studied the soil and concludes in her book, The Soil Will Save Us concludes that the low-cost, low-tech solution to climate change may be directly underfoot—in healthy soil. Crops have an enormous capability to sequester carbon, she writes, but only if the soil is made to thrive with a mix of no-till farming, cover crops, and livestock grazing.

In order to fully embrace and communicate with the wisdom of the earth, consider the Bios Urn, a fully biodegradable urn designed to convert you into a tree after life. Mainly composed of two parts, the urn contains a seed which will grow to in the name of your loved one. Bios Urn turns death into a transformation and a return to life through nature.

Saturday, December 26, 2015

Artists Ponder Food: Tara Sellios -- Still Life and Marine Life

From the series, Luxuria, 2013

Sellios' artist statement: I strive to create images that elegantly articulate the totality of existence, focusing heavily on the broad themes of life and death, with further emphasis placed on ideas of fragility, impermanence and carnality. 

Artists Ponder Food: James Ostrer's Tribal Decorations

James Ostrer’s Wotsit All About makes use of junk food as adornment - tribal, frightfully hilarious.

Pacific Midwest 2.0 Exhibition - INOVA Gallery Features the Milwaukee, Milwaukie Museum

Pacific Midwest 2.0 exhibits the various working methods of 17 photographic artists from Portland, OR and Milwaukee, WI. Similar in size, population, and cultural diversity, Portland and Milwaukee boast vibrant and growing internationally recognized photographic communities while simultaneously fending off their “second city” status to more robust neighboring art markets. Originally exhibited in 2013 at the Newspace Center for Photography in Portland, Pacific Midwest highlighted that Milwaukee, a traditionally smaller art city, offers a climate for the congregation of artists working in a multitude of conceptual and aesthetic strategies to foster a dynamic and integrated community. In this next iteration of the show, Milwaukee welcomes Portland into the fold in order to seek further connection with a photographic community, 2060 miles away, which shares a common multitudinous experience.

In addition to each artist’s individual contribution to the show, Pacific Midwest 2.0 will feature the Milwaukee, Milwaukie Museum, an experimental collaborative experience initiated by the Milwaukee Comma photography collective. Portland artists were invited to respond to their experience visiting the local historical society of Milwaukie, OR, while Milwaukee artists made a response to artifacts witnessed in the Milwaukee Historical Society.  This new museum weaves together the various results from the call to respond, seeking further connection between the artists in the show, as well as investigating where overlap can occur between two geographies that share a common name, but are located thousands of miles apart.
Barbara Ciurej, "Residential Birds of Milwaukee County," Sound Installation

After-Opening Party at our studio with exhibitors from Milwaukee, WI
L to R, Barbara Ciurej, Hon Horvath, Mark Brautigam, Tara Bogart, Kevin Miyazaki, Lindsay Lochman, Naomi Shertsy
Lindsay Lochman, "First White Boy," Christening Gowns and Documents

Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Pacific Midwest 2.0 Exhibition - INOVA Gallery

In addition to showing selections from Processed Views: Surveying the Industrial Landscape, we had the  opportunity to exhibit two Carleton Watkins prints that inspired some of our views. We are grateful to the American Geographical Society Library, housed in the University of Wisconsin - Milwaukee's Golda Maier Library, which loaned the prints for the duration of the exhibition. 
Yosemite Falls, 1867, Carleton Watkins

Sugar Loaf, Farrallon Islands, l867, Carleton Watkins

AGS Western Photograph Collection – This collection consists of albumen prints and stereoscopicslides by the photographers of the four great western surveys. These works include: 64 prints by William Henry Jackson, photographer with the Hayden survey, of Yellowstone, the Rocky Mountains of Colorado, and the Moqui Indian Pueblos of Arizona; 6 prints of the Grand Canyon region by John K. Hillers, photographer with the Powell survey; 49 prints and stereoscopic slides by William Bell, photographer with the Wheeler survey; and 441 prints and stereoscopic slides by Timothy O’Sullivan, photographer with the King and Wheeler surveys. Also included in this collection are 54 mammoth size prints of Yosemite by Eadweard J. Muybridge and 76 prints by Carleton E. Watkins.