Monday, October 08, 2007

But is it art?

Some friends of mine returned from far-away lands. We hadn't seen them for a long time and just had a wonderful evening with them. Unexpected gifts from these far-away lands were an additional delight.

I must explain that these friends have impeccable tastes. But they also have a sense of humor which will sometimes manifest itself as a "comment" about 'taste' and "what is good". They can find charm and meaning in something with no artistic merits whatsoever; absolutely BAD can in itself, be art. Or they can trash what others would consider High-art. They may laud the taco wagon under the overpass or trash the five-star French Restaurant. The same goes for music, art exhibitions, etc. They themselves are serious artists – in many mediums - including culinary.

This may seem strange and excessive introduction, but is a necessary stage-set for the following.

One of the gifts they gave us was this…

At home, Marianne and I studied it, not entirely sure of what it was. Marianne thought it was perhaps a plaque to be hung somewhere - somehow.

I thought it was to be eaten. After all, it would be a horrible piece of 'art' to be hung anywhere. But if it was food, she wondered, why was it glued to the wood? And if it was food, why would it be on a plaque of wood, a piece of a log in fact, in the first place? I argued that the wood was presentation – that could be used as wished afterwards: A tiny cheese cutting block, or kindling on a cold winter night… the possibilities were quite varied. I didn't have an explanation for the glue.

The 'what is it?' was shrink-wrapped and labeled in the language of the far-away land from whence it was brought. Incidentally, I can read, write and speak this far-away language – thereby complicating the matter.

I read the label on the back, which was a list of ingredients. I could make out some of the ingredients: flour, sugar, food dye. Others, I couldn't translate quickly. All of these things were potentially food – or paste for an arts and crafts project. What I could also easily translate was a warning at the end of the ingredients: Not for children under 14. Hmm… dangerous?

The 'what is it?' sat on the kitchen counter for the day.
Later, while Marianne was running errands, I wandered into the kitchen, esoteric discussions of past floating about in my head. Is it art? What is art? Define Art? Cripes that's awful art. My friends have good taste – but they are witty and occasionally troublemakers. It could be a 'comment' about the whole nature of gift giving and trinkets from far away lands. I was in a quandary. Damn.

I pressed on the "pretzel" and the "sausage". They were malleable. The "Mustard" was hard as rock. All were solidly affixed to the scrap of log. This mystery was not revealing itself easily.

After mulling it over for several minutes, turning it this way and that, pressing gently, rereading the labels – wondering if I should hang it up in the kitchen above the spices, I did what any true art critic or meta-art critic or artist or any derivation of the whole tortured business would do.

I ate it.

When Marianne came home I mentioned to her what I had done. She looked at the cross section of the pretzel (and the sausage – I ate a piece of that too).

"I guess we're not hanging it up", she noted. She asked me what it tasted like. I wasn't sure. I had tasted it before, but I couldn't recall if it was when eating dessert at a high-end restaurant or when eating Play-Dough in first grade. Food group or Kitsch Art, there was less of it in either case. So Marianne did what any art critic, meta-critic, or any derivation of the whole tortured business would do.
She cut off a piece and ate it.

You can say this about us: We may not know art when we see it, but we know it when we eat it.

The plaque of pretzels, sausages and mustard was marzipan, of course. Thanks B, E&A. We love it!

Currently there is an exhibition of Cosima Von Bonin artwork at the Museum of Contemporary Art, a multimedia artist; he doesn't hang everything on the walls either. The museum is merely minutes away. We're thinking about going there for lunch.

It does look lovely between the spice racks.


  1. Nurmburg marzipan, yum yum yum. You did what any great Actionist would do: you ate it, but not without photographing it first. Part two, were you a Viennese pureblood, if course, is to chase it with ipecac and photograph it again. Congratulations Charlie: the chocolate factory is yours. But not if you went to MOCA without us.

  2. That is not by me up there! Husband- writing- for -the- wife Syndrome.

    Anyways, it will look even better with a trail of ants walking toward it. :o)

    Real Elif

  3. Reminds me of the Monty Python "Art Gallery" sketch.

    Marge: Ralph! Stop it. Stop it. Stop chewing that Turner! You are...(she disappears from shot) You are a naughty, naughty vicious little boy (sounds of smacking).