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Deacon

Food as an Artform

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Food, especially food on the cutting edge as served in the finest restaurants, is arguably the most abstract of all arts. Provided we are in an open frame of mind and not too exhausted at mealtime to be receptive to new ideas, a fine meal can convey not only gustatory information but also emotional, expressive, historical (and maybe even philosophical) information to us. This is where background reading can broaden a wide experience with food from different cultures (in particular the kind of focused-on-food reading you can get at eGullet and a few other sites).

Food does more than nourish us physically. It can also nourish us spiritually, emotionally, and even on occasion intellectually. We bring, or should bring, our imagination and intuition to the table as well as our taste buds. Eating in this frame of mind allows up to tap into the social, cultural, and aesthetic traditions of other cultures. It's an excellent way to begin an exploration of those cultures and frames of mind. For the duration of a meal, we can be learning about other cultures, other socio-economic levels, other neighborhoods, that we might not otherwise sample. We become aware of our shared humanity (since everyone eats). And it's simply fun to enjoy a good meal, it can be inexpensive (though not always), we can do it by ourselves or with others, and most cities have numerous cuisines to enjoy, depending on your mood at the moment.

Any thoughts on or additions to this?


Edited by Deacon (log)

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There's also the argument that food isn't art but is a craft instead. Craftwork, if you reduce it down to a barebones definition, can be called art that has function. In the case of food, it provides nourishment and can provide pleasure.

So a chef isn't really an artist no matter how well they cook and plate the food. They are, instead, craftsmen.

Discuss. :laugh:

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In a similar vein, I would simply state that while I do think that cooking is an art, it's absurd to even consider the idea that something to be eaten can be the "most abstract of all arts." Food is concrete and edible. How is that more abstract than a painting by Piet Mondrian?


Edited by Pan (log)

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In a similar vein, I would simply state that while I do think that cooking is an art, it's absurd to even consider the idea that something to be eaten can be the "most abstract of all arts." Food is concrete and edible. How is that more abstract than a painting by Piet Mondrian?

Because it is a canvas unto itself. I offer these poor illustrations, but it makes the the point. Happy Birthday Cycle-boy and wheat to eat and a pond made of lilie pad cookies and water lilies and swans. This food makes a communication unto itself. I have done tomato logos and chalices and sheesh just lots of stuff that is food and art. In fact many of my online pictures have ulterior motives as food.

And I'm not even close to the op's idea of the deep expressions communicated from the heart of a chef to the diner by what speaks from the plate.

I recently made angel wing cookies for some folks going though tough times in the hospital. Is that abstract? A tasty Hallmark moment?


Edited by K8memphis (log)

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. . . it's absurd to even consider the idea that something to be eaten can be the "most abstract of all arts." Food is concrete and edible. How is that more abstract than a painting by Piet Mondrian?

I would call it abstract because it conveys a message indirectly.

Also, not *all* art is as abstract as a Mondrian. Some of it is very straightforward and representational. When I called cuisine "abstract," I was talking about its qualities across the board, qualities that *all* high-level cooking has as art. In that sense, any "theory" of cuisine, anything that it tries to "say," has to be conveyed obliquely. Consider the whimsicality of some of Thomas Keller's dishes at The French Laundry, for example.

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I mean how much more abstract can it be to have to make it become a memory to reveal (the full potential of) all the art there is therein.

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In a similar vein, I would simply state that while I do think that cooking is an art, it's absurd to even consider the idea that something to be eaten can be the "most abstract of all arts." Food is concrete and edible. How is that more abstract than a painting by Piet Mondrian?

Because it is a canvas unto itself. I offer these poor illustrations, but it makes the the point. Happy Birthday Cycle-boy and wheat to eat and a pond made of lilie pad cookies and water lilies and swans. This food makes a communication unto itself. I have done tomato logos and chalices and sheesh just lots of stuff that is food and art. In fact many of my online pictures have ulterior motives as food.

And I'm not even close to the op's idea of the deep expressions communicated from the heart of a chef to the diner by what speaks from the plate.

I recently made angel wing cookies for some folks going though tough times in the hospital. Is that abstract? A tasty Hallmark moment?

Is your argument that food can be abstract or figurative? Because the examples you're presenting are not only functional as food but also figuratively representational. But even if you presented "abstract" compositions in food, the point would still be to eat them! Otherwise, they're not functional and in a real sense, no longer food.

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. . . it's absurd to even consider the idea that something to be eaten can be the "most abstract of all arts." Food is concrete and edible. How is that more abstract than a painting by Piet Mondrian?

I would call it abstract because it conveys a message indirectly.

Also, not *all* art is as abstract as a Mondrian.

That's not the point at all. The claim, easily disproven, is that food is the "most abstract" art.

Some of it is very straightforward and representational. When I called cuisine "abstract," I was talking about its qualities across the board, qualities that *all* high-level cooking has as art. In that sense, any "theory" of cuisine, anything that it tries to "say," has to be conveyed obliquely. Consider the whimsicality of some of Thomas Keller's dishes at The French Laundry, for example.

_Any_ artistic medium can be whimsical! Have a look at Paul Klee's work, which has no additional function of being eaten! And listen to music by Joseph Haydn. You want a really abstract art? Check out music!

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I mean how much more abstract can it be to have to make it become a memory to reveal (the full potential of) all the art there is therein.

Can you please elaborate?

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_Any_ artistic medium can be whimsical! Have a look at Paul Klee's work, which has no additional function of being eaten! And listen to music by Joseph Haydn. You want a really abstract art? Check out music!

As a recent music graduate, I may have to take small issue. Art is only as abstract as its familiarity to any one person. I may be able to appreciate some of the finer points of music, but very very simple visual art can be dead/confusing to me.

In my estimation, any action in human life is governed by three areas.

Craft, Art, and Science.

How these three entities combine in degree of prominence is ultimately variable.

For me, cooking falls into mostly craft, then art, and lastly science.

The craft is being able to correctly cook based upon the history you know.

Art is the ability to give people what they want. (Which as we know, can vary greatly. As much as some of us may begrudge well-done guy, it's what he/she wants.)

Science is knowing why what you're doing is doing what it's doing to the food.

This is my opinion on how these 3 elements combine to create food. Their definitions and degree of prominence can change for anyone.


Edited by theisenm85 (log)

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Could someone define art for me please?

I think this is one of the most perplexing and interesting questions one can ask.

Nearly every definition of art excludes something that someone in the world considers art. That may lead to the conclusion that art is impossible to define. If that's true, then how can anything be identified as art?

In my opinion, art has a unique definition for everyone. I think all things possess some sort of innate art, but the degree differs, person by person. A "great painting" would usually be a greater piece of "art" than say..... a piece of paper to most people. However, get an artisan paper maker into that conversation (they exist right?), and you may find a different answer. Maybe not, but that's the beauty of subjectivity.

For me, art is something where I take notice of details I "normally" wouldn't. Once something has interested me, and I examine beyond what something looks like (sounds like, tastes like, feels like, smells like) on the surface, it's elevated to art.

Let's keep this thread going, I love these sorts of discussions.


Edited by theisenm85 (log)

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I mean how much more abstract can it be to have to make it become a memory to reveal (the full potential of) all the art there is therein.

Can you please elaborate?

A person (the chef) enjoys making and creating and designing it.

The recipient enjoys seeing and interpreting it and eating it so it becomes a memory, disappears.

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I mean how much more abstract can it be to have to make it become a memory to reveal (the full potential of) all the art there is therein.

Can you please elaborate?

A person (the chef) enjoys making and creating and designing it.

The recipient enjoys seeing and interpreting it and eating it so it becomes a memory, disappears.

That's true. But what did you mean about it having to become a memory to reveal the full potential of its art?

(And by the way, here again, music unfolds in time. So does a play, a movie, etc. This is a commonality of a bunch of different art forms and just plain experiences.)

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Food is no more art than paint is. It's what you cook that counts.

For most people, "art" is associated with imagination, creativity and stimulation. It's about making something new, which is regarded by others as invigorating. I'm not sure how much of my food fits the bill.

But is eating sport?

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But is eating sport?

Funny you should ask. I came across the term "recreational eater" yesterday and became curious about it.

A new term, apparently. Only nine Google hits.

But I'll take any bets going, that it will grow, the term "recreational eating", and become a part of our daily language soon. :wink:

Then we'll have to create teams and ratings, of course, for the sport of recreational eating. :rolleyes:

................................

Art. I don't think teams can or do create it.

Therefore one would have to wonder if a professional restaurant kitchen team led by a chef who was an "artist" would be creating artform food, or if the food would only be art coming from the Master's hands. :smile:


Edited by Carrot Top (log)

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I mean how much more abstract can it be to have to make it become a memory to reveal (the full potential of) all the art there is therein.

Can you please elaborate?

A person (the chef) enjoys making and creating and designing it.

The recipient enjoys seeing and interpreting it and eating it so it becomes a memory, disappears.

That's true. But what did you mean about it having to become a memory to reveal the full potential of its art?

(And by the way, here again, music unfolds in time. So does a play, a movie, etc. This is a commonality of a bunch of different art forms and just plain experiences.)

When it gets eaten it then becomes a memory. Once the chef prepares it, if it doesn't get eaten it's only partially appreciated. It's full potential is in it's consumption so the communication between creator and consumer can be fully realized.

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I mean like ask a chef what was his favorite meal, the best dish he ever had. Out pops a very passionate memory.

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I am surprised no one has mentioned Ruscha's Chocolate Room or the concept of food as a medium in the art world (versus a plated dinner being artistic).

There are actually hundreds of artists who utilize food in various forms to create art - most of them conceptional and without long life.

I am sorry I cannot recall the artist's name, but the Los Angeles Contemporary Museum of Art was hanging a piece 20 years ago that I still recall - on a 20-foot high canvas, the artist had splattered caviar in a vertical patterns. Lots and lots of caviar. But it was only when you got very close to the piece that you saw that each individual egg had been numbered in pencil. It was hilarious.

It inspired me to create some art piece with food and I have done several installation pieces. One was made with a jell-o mold of a heart (biologically correct, not just shaped like a heart). I made six in all in various themes; a clear one filled with gold glitter was Heart of Gold, the black one was Blackguard, a yellow one was Cowardice, a green one was Envy. Along with the jell-o hearts, I made specific plates (in clay) and place-settings (in metal) that accompanied the piece. That exhibit was up for two weeks and during that time, each day, I photographed the hearts as they decayed. This was just one food-based exhibit I did. Sadly for me, all that work (and those photographs) were destroyed in the Northridge earthquake (pre-digital era and all that).

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That's not the point at all. The claim, easily disproven, is that food is the "most abstract" art.

...

You want a really abstract art? Check out music!

Right on, Pan...I had typed a post in this vein when the thread started but I didn't post it because I thought I was geeking out...thanks for doing it for me! :raz:

mem

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It inspired me to create some art piece with food and I have done several installation pieces. One was made with a jell-o mold of a heart (biologically correct, not just shaped like a heart). I made six in all in various themes; a clear one filled with gold glitter was Heart of Gold, the black one was Blackguard, a yellow one was Cowardice, a green one was Envy. Along with the jell-o hearts, I made specific plates (in clay) and place-settings (in metal) that accompanied the piece. That exhibit was up for two weeks and during that time, each day, I photographed the hearts as they decayed. This was just one food-based exhibit I did. Sadly for me, all that work (and those photographs) were destroyed in the Northridge earthquake (pre-digital era and all that).

Memories or not, it would be wonderful to have those pieces left intact, Carolyn. Interesting work.

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I want to clarify that when I said "abstract," I wasn't talking about "non-representational" as used in painting. I mean, a Carvel ice-cream cake in the shape of a whale is "non-abstract" by that definition, but a cube of chocolate in the middle of a white plate is "abstract." I didn't mean visually abstract, I meant "intellectually abstract." I wasn't opposing "abstract" and "functional" as opposites, either--of course, food is primarily intended to be eaten, rather than just looked at, so it's necessarily functional.

There are specific adjectives used to describe various tastes, but the tasting (as opposed to the cooking) is definitely qualitative rather than quantitative, therefore "abstract" as opposed to "concrete."


Edited by Deacon (log)

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Food is no more art than paint is.  It's what you cook that counts.

For most people, "art" is associated with imagination, creativity and stimulation.  It's about making something new, which is regarded by others as invigorating.  I'm not sure how much of my food fits the bill.

But is eating sport?

Interesting. First of all, yes, eating can be a sport: Look at all those hot-dog-eating competitions!

But I don't think it's necessary to make something new for it to be art. A beautiful execution of a particular dish for the millionth time is somewhat analogous to the millionth time a musician performs a Bach sonata, except that it seems hard to imagine a musician performing anything a million times in one lifetime. But the point here is that in either case, it is at least arguably of aesthetic value.

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A person (the chef) enjoys making and creating and designing it.

The recipient enjoys seeing and interpreting it and eating it so it becomes a memory, disappears.

That's true. But what did you mean about it having to become a memory to reveal the full potential of its art?

(And by the way, here again, music unfolds in time. So does a play, a movie, etc. This is a commonality of a bunch of different art forms and just plain experiences.)

When it gets eaten it then becomes a memory. Once the chef prepares it, if it doesn't get eaten it's only partially appreciated. It's full potential is in it's consumption so the communication between creator and consumer can be fully realized.

That makes perfect sense. My only quibble, and it's a small one, is that the experience of appreciating the creation of the dish is strongest while eating it. A memory can never be as strongly felt as the actual taste, smell, and mouthfeel of a dish one is in the process of eating.

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theisenm85 wrote: "Art is the ability to give people what they want."

Is it? I think the highest-level cuisine challenges the person who experiences it as much as a painting or a sculpture does. Food is ephemeral, meant to be consumed, therefore temporary. It gets used up in the process of experiencing it.

Art is not always "comforting." It can be challenging, confusing, even disgusting. Consider the delicacies of other cultures that are considered delicious by their indigenous cultures but which are disgusting to us (e.g. durian).


Edited by Deacon (log)

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