Beyoncé Knowles – “Master cleanse diet,” lemon juice, maple syrup, cayenne pepper, salt, and laxative herbal tea
Bill Clinton – “Cabbage diet,” cabbage soup, mixed with other vegetables.
Luigi Cornaro – “Sober Life,” fifteenth-century Venetian nobleman, 400ml of solid food or eggs and 500ml wine.
Lord Byron – “Romantic poet’s diet,” potatoes in vinegar and soda water.
Whether you find it oddly comforting or just downright strange, fad diets have existed long before our time. Photographer Dan Bannino documents the temporary eating habits of celebrities as far back as Henry VIII and as recent as Beyonce. He goes beyond simple tablet settings, however, and crafts moody, rich-looking scenes that are luscious in their color and texture. Bannino describes the inspiration for his series entitled Still Diet, writing:
With this series my aim was to capture the beauty that lies in this terrible constriction of diets and deprivation, giving them the importance of an old master’s painting. I wanted to make them significant, like classic works of arts that are becoming more and more weighty as they grow older. My aim was to show how this weirdness hasn’t changed even since the 15th century. (Via Artnet)
Imagine a recorder made of a hollowed-out carrot, a guitar carved from celery. Using knives and drilling machines, the one-of-a-kind Vegetable Orchestra constructs their instruments entirely from fresh and dried vegetables, mimicking the sounds of everything from bass drums to airy flutes. Because the Vienna-based band works with organic materials that perish or dry out after a single performance or recording session, they must continually create and reinvent the tools of the medium.
The group currently has thirteen members. Since its inception in 1998, The Vegetable Orchestra has been dedicated to incorporating the talents of musicians, visual artists, writers, and designers, all of whom have equal say and contribute to a unique multimedia experience. The aesthetic figures prominently into the work, and the rich colors of the fresh instruments is given much thought. With their unusual instruments, orchestra hopes to draw out and make visible the vitality and potential of the natural world.
The Vegetable Orchestra travels around the world, creating immersive artistic spaces; at concerts, they play music, screen video performances, and offer audience members a fresh bowl of tasty vegetable soup that they charmingly refer to as the edible “encore.” The orchestra’s sound is certainly unlike anything we have ever heard. Though many instruments—like the pepper horn and the pumpkin drum— nearly replicate the sounds of familiar instruments, others sound entirely foreign. Inspired by seemingly discordant styles like house music, dub, electronic, and free jazz, the orchestra draws inspiration from diverse sources, composing syncopated pieces that are both chaotic and restrained. (via Juxtapoz and Lost at E Minor)
Would you eat a blue chicken? What about an unidentifiable purple sauce? In Lawrie Brown’sColored Food Series, dishes are outlandishly unnatural colors that appear unappetizing to some and edible to others. This is the point of Brown’s work, and they explain in an artist statement:
These photographs comment on the social, visual and psychological aspects of food. I am involved in a photographic investigation of what food people eat, what those foods materially consist of, what they look like, and what statements foods make about our society. Of concern to me is what food actually looks like photographically and how it psychologically affects the viewer when isolated within its natural context.
My photographs of typical table settings of food outwardly evoke in the viewer either delight and acceptance or repulsion and rejection. The response that occurs depends on:
The awareness of the viewer to the actual or imagined taste of the subject or to the actual or imagined content of the food.
The individual psychological response to the colors presented.
Although you may look at this and be disgusted, Brown’s foods don’t seem worse than the artificially colored and flavored fruit gummies (for example) on the shelves now. So, if you’re not grossed out by these images, perhaps it’s from years of Gusher’s Fruit Snacks that’s desensitized you. (Via Flavorwire)
For the photographer Per Johansen’s new series, the artist shoots plastic bottles filled and overflowing with raw and bloody meat, exploring human consumption and calling into question the ethics of the meat industry. The project, titled Mæt (meaning Full) uses recycled plastic bottles to stand in for the human stomach and appetite; each is then stuffed with chicken, eel, sausage, liver, fish. When viewing this disturbing and probative project, viewers are forced too to consider the morality of using a once-living being in art; if the work makes a statement against cruel techniques in meat production, is it then exempt from the same ethical criticism?
Shot under expert lighting to reveal the textures of the dead flesh, each image reads like a scientific specimen, an objective and disturbing archive of meat production. The stomach-turning images are hard to look at; like organisms preserved in jars and formaldehyde, the meat products look less like food and more like grotesque captives. Their biological beauty is expressed through the ridges of a snail shell; a compressed cephalopod fleshes emerald hues, and the shiny metallic glint of scales presses against the cruel plastic. A pair of eel eyes appear deadened, and an eel mouth seems to open in a silent scream, a head thrust from the bottle neck.
Here, the human appetite for meat is shown as wasteful, the stomach equated with the plastic bottle, an object associated with careless consumption. The work’s website asks viewers, “Are you full now?” This idea brings us back to our initial question: is it humane to use meat for creative purposes, or is it degrading and wrong to use once-living organisms in such a way? Does the answer change when the work is meant to protest human gluttony and the grotesque nature of mass meat production? Let us know what you think in the comments! (via Feature Shoot)
“Journey to the Center of the Gut” is the artistic duo Sam Bompas and Harry Parr’s answer to “food pornography” images posted on Instagram; in asking celebrity chef Gizzi Erskine to swallow a SynMed pill-cam, they provide a more raw and intimate view of human consumption. The minuscule camera filmed Erskine’s insides as it passed through her digestive tract, and a live audience of hundreds was invited to witness the process. At times, the expert chef ate jelly beans, which, to the delight of all, bounced about before the camera.
The project, presumably titled after Jules Verne’s “Journey to the Center of the Earth,” places our modern aesthetic fascination with food within a more profound and cosmic context. By comparison, Instagram food images seem frivolous and relatively insubstantial; Bompas and Parr’s images are scientific and therefore authoritative, presenting the gut—normally considered to be a vulgar organ—with reverent medicinal care. At times, organs appear like fiery celestial bodies, commanding our attention.
These images, in contrast to prettily polished and filtered “food porn” shots, are dangerously vulnerable; their subject is soft, naked, sensitive tissue, and the SynMed pill-cam is capable of revealing potential problems in Erskine’s system (Bompas is pleased to report that her digestive organs are perfectly healthy). Juxtaposed against the glamour of the famous chef, whose careful updos and fashionable manner mirror those of old Hollywood starlets, the crude images are stronger for their entirely unpredictable, visceral portrayal of her inner self.
In a world where we’re tasked with consuming an impossible amount of imagery, ”Journey to the Center of the Gut” reminds us of the physicality of consumption. Amidst a plethora or celebrity chefs, cooking shows, diet books, and food porn, the project reminds us of the basic fact of our digestion; it doesn’t have to be pretty, but it’s something we all share. (via HuffPost)
Photographers Pierre Javelle and Akiko Ida(previously here) found love through photography while attending art school, but they also found a way to combine their interests in gourmet food and miniature worlds by combining them all into playful scenarios. Their most comprehesive series, MINIMIAM, has been an exploration of visual solutions in miniature since 2002. Says Ida, “We’re both food photographer in our daily work, and we’re both quite crazy about cooking, eating and everything about food. So when we started this small people series, naturally we created the stories related to the food.”
The series (a portmanteau from mini and miam, meaning yum! in French), sets miniature figures in whimsical settings, opening up the possibilities of food photography and creating stories from visual puns. The figures are found from model train set kits (usually 1/87 scale), and seen sledding through icing like snow, blowing air into raisins with a handpump to explain the origin of grapes, and recalling Michelangelo by carving away the shell of a peanut to set free the trapped sculpture (peanut) within.
Left: Midwife/High School Science Teacher, 2008. Right: midwife/business consultant, 2012
A bartender’s fridge in 2008 (left) and 2012 (right).
Left: The fridge of a carpenter and photographer in 2008. Right: The fridge, with the photographer now a homemaker, in 2012.
Photographer Mark Menjivar wants to know what’s in your fridge. His series You Are What You Eat began in 2007 (it was previously featured on Beautiful/Decay here), and it captured the insides of 60 different people’s fridges. Menjivar thought of the series as a portrait project, with food defining someone’s identity. Several years later, he revisited some of the fridges. The new photographs depict how lives change over the years, as illustrated by food. For some, their habits have changed drastically, while others, more or less, are the same.
The ingredients in one’s fridge tell us a lot. Not only what kind of food they eat, but do they cook regularly, do they drink alcohol, do they like barbecue. And what about fresh produce? When the photographer met with a midwife and science teacher in 2008, they had started a commitment to eating only local produce. In 2012, with ready-made fruit packs in sight, we can see that commitment didn’t exactly last. The fridge that was chock-full of takeout containers in 2008 was owned by a bartender. Still a bartender in 2012, he has, according to Menjivar, started eating healthier and lost weight.
You Are What You Eat was originally shot for an exhibition at the Houston Center for Photography. Since the release of the series, the exhibition has travelled to 15 cities. In each city, Menjivar collaborates with communities to create a conversation about food issues in their area. The series will eventually become a book. (via Slate)
Microbiologist Christina Agapakis and scent artist Sissel Tolaas‘ science-meets-art project “Self Made” seeks to challenge the way we think about microbes, scent, and the nature of disgust. Most cheese is made by taking milk and spoiling it with the bacteria, Lactobacillus. This bacteria transform milk sugars into acid, causing it to coagulate. The chunks are removed from the liquid and aged with specific yeast that creates specific cheeses. Lactobacillus and yeast can be found all around us, including our own skin. Agapakis and Tolaas take microbes from people’s skin – like Michael Pollan’s belly button or artist Olafur Eliasson’s tears – and add them to milk in order to create a human microbial cheese portrait (a cheese selfie?).
“The idea was to recognize, how do we get grossed out? Then to think about it and move beyond that initial idea of disgust,” Agapakis says. “Why are we more uncomfortable with bacteria on the body than we are with bacteria in cheese?”
From the artists’ statement, “Many of the stinkiest cheeses are hosts to species of bacteria closely related to the bacteria responsible for the characteristic smells of human armpits or feet. Can knowledge and tolerance of bacterial cultures in our food improve tolerance of the bacteria on our bodies? How do humans cultivate and value bacterial cultures on cheeses and fermented foods? How will synthetic biology change with a better understanding of how species of bacteria work together in nature as opposed to the pure cultures of the lab?”