One of my biggest fears growing up was the supermarket, and in order to face this inhibition, I would pretend that I was in an art gallery. Aisles upon aisles of food, the source of anxiety, would suddenly transform into objects, bright and beautiful, often grotesque, and always untouchable.
I wasn’t paying tribute to Paul McCarthy covering himself in ketchup, nor the colorful paintings of Wayne Thiebaud. It was a performance for modernity, like the theatrics of Marinetti’s Futurist Cooking, but set to the background of a fast food ad campaign.
My ritual, and plenty of others like it, can be used to shed light on our cultural attitudes toward food, ones that are perhaps best emphasized by the approximate 30 million people in the United States with eating disorders or the country’s two-thirds of adults who are considered overweight.
Exploring this is a London show by Bad Art‘s Anna Choutova, who has curated a dinner that is completely inedible, aiming to create dialogue surrounding food, from overindulgence and restriction, to commercialization and poverty.
“It’s just going to look like a massive dinner party,” she tells Creators. “You’ll enter a room and be surrounded by things that you want but can’t have. Like full round wedding tables piled with different fake food that different artists have created.”
A group of 29 international artists are involved in Choutova’s Let Them Eat Fake exhibit, which opens later this month at Bones & Pearl Studios in London. The decadent work on display, predominantly ceramic based, includes huge bags of chips and pieces of gum, savory sausage sculptures, lollipops made of ash, and a chocolate fountain with green paint coming out of it.
“I want it to be quite assaulting on the senses,” says Choutova. “I want it to mirror the assault of food in media and commercialism. It’s quite in your face, luscious, but a bit sickening.”
Recent legislation in the UK that bans online ads for junk food points to the power of influence that the fast food industry has on nutrition, following the World Health Organization‘s warning about the volume of these ads targeted at children.
This, paired with unrealistic body standards in media and the prevalence of both dieting and healthy eating trends, creates a cesspool of contradictory communication, underscored by a fast-paced environment that has no room for sitting down at a dinner table.
“It’s constantly this push and pull to abstain and be healthy,” says Choutova. “But also treat yourself, overindulge, and have this fast food deal. It’s just a lot of messages being thrown at people, which can cause really difficult attitudes to eating.”
The 23-year-old artist and curator, who puts on shows under her project Bad Art, was inspired after seeing fake ramen and sashimi on display in the window of a Japanese restaurant.
“I thought it was quite potent how plastic food starts playing with your senses and alluring you to eat,” she says. “I think something as basic as human nourishment has kind of mutated into this huge subject and culture, where now, we’re eating at an arm’s length through Instagram. It’s becoming more of a visual thing, rather than the actual act of it.”
Find out more about Bad Art’s Let Them Eat Fake, which opens August11, here.