Table Manners: A Feast of Visual Arts, Theater and Culinary

8 March 2018 - 30 July 2018

The Genia Schreiber University Art Gallery, Tel Aviv University, Ramat Aviv, Tel Aviv, IL

“One cannot think well, love well, sleep well, if one has not dined well,” Virginia Woolf writes in A Room of One’s Own. The saying carries the recognition that food is not only necessary for human survival, but is an integral element of intelligent existence, fundamental to human society and interpersonal communication.
Scholar Claude Fischler shows that people are not simply nourished by the major food groups but by the symbolic values, the fantasies and the myths that charge food with additional levels of meaning and make it a form of communication. In addition, he points out that the sensitivities to certain foods in the West are a function of excess (not lack), that leads to new pathologies. Apparently, our bodies no longer inform us what we should eat, and most of all, when we should cease eating.
This exhibition is based on the perception that radical avoidance of food on the one hand, and its excessive consumption on the other, are deviations from the middle way; the two meet up where fine taste ends. Excessive fullness is a lack of emptiness, and utter emptiness is an excess of lack.
Abstaining entirely from food as a performative artistic act that has exceeded its own limits is the core of Franz Kafka’s Hunger Artist. The tale’s hero fasts before an audience of spectators for forty days, until the audience grows bored. The artist continues to fast in a circus cage containing only hay. One day an inspector finds the artist dying under the hay, and asks him why he did not eat. The artist responds that had he found food to his liking, he would have eaten it rather than making a spectacle of himself. As soon as he says so, he expires.m
At the end of his life, at the threshold between life and death, John Cage chose to eradicate the boundary between food and its artistic representation when he literally turned food into the raw material of his work. In a series called Edible Drawings he created a set of handmade papers from various foods in his macrobiotic diet and from Chinese herbs he was using to combat the pains of his illness. Michael Silver, who was the head chef at the Gardner Cafe, at the Elizabeth Gardner Museum in Boston, purchased one of the works and hung it in the cafe alongside the menu. At his parting celebration, Silver cooked the drawing and served it as soup to his friends at the cafe. Art was cooked up, bringing the conceptual process Cage initiated to its full realization.

Two plays by Jeannine Worms -- Coffee and Cake, and The Recipe will be performed over the course of the exhibition. The plays revolve around the communication between two women who map the social hierarchy of their existence while they are disproportionately engaged with food -- eating deserts or cooking a main course. In the first play the glut and hedonism are so excessive that the nuances of flavor are eradicated, and in the second the dish is burnt, which leads to an act of violence. The way the characters approach food intimates their personalities -- in one case submissive and in the other rebellious.
Many of the works displayed in the exhibition are a function of a limit the artist imposes on him or herself. As artists take this choice to extreme, limit turns into a surplus of consistency that can manifest itself in the visual results: their vividness, composition and materiality. Using cheese, olives, sausages, cookies and chocolate, participating artists bring forth new formulations of the bodily, social and political critique as well as instances of the phenomena of excess.
(Beyond and Below Good Taste - Nirith Nelson)

participating artists: Narda Alvarado, Hila Amram, Jenifer Bar-Lev, Maya Bloch, Michael Borremans, Mircea Cantor, Yael Frank, Zohar Gotesman, Ben Hagari, Hamza Halloubi, Micha Laury, Paul McCarthy, Maya Muchawsky Parnas, Hans Op de Beeck, Tsuyoshi Ozawa, Doron Rabina, Avi Sabah, Cindy Sherman, Tunca