From feminist performance examining migrant domestic labour; to neighbourhood literacies of urban farming; to more recent forms of performance and radical hospitality by social practice artists featured in contemporary art, there has been a growing artistic and curatorial interest in the conjuncture of food and art. In particular, there is a resurgence of Asian and Australian artists examining questions of ecological and social sustainability through the lens of food economies of production, distribution, commensality and waste.
Staged as a living laboratory, Bruised Food is a social artwork that uses methods of curation and public pedagogy to frame the discourse of the politics and aesthetics of food as employed by contemporary social practice artists. It takes as its entry point the idea of the bruise to explore the conjuncture of food and art, their precarious ecologies, and affective economies of exchange. Defined by its outline, like an imprint of a glass of red wine left on a table in a unbridled act of libation, a bruise is indexical, corporeal, and destined to fade. With its plum hues and mottled surface, a bruise marks the threshold of interior and exterior, and the fragile and ephemeral relations between people, objects and their environments. A bruise is also evidentiary and mnemonic, registering trajectories of contact and encounter with varying degrees of affective intensity and ephemerality. Indeed, the appearance of a bruise may be viewed as symptomatic of what Anna Tsing refers to as ‘friction’ – the “awkward, unequal, unstable, and creative qualities of interconnection across difference” (2005: p. 4), that arises as a result of diverse movements and interactions in our contemporary world.
In adopting a mode of curating that is informed by an ethics of care, generosity and responsibility, Bruised Food seeks to engender forms of engagement and participation that goes beyond conventional notions of relationality and convivial exchange. In particular, this project attends to the bruised ecologies of food and art by foregrounding the risks, uncertainty and frictions inherent in the potential encounters and exchanges between diversely situated subjects. This mode of curating thereby resonates with the interconnection between ethics and aesthetics and taps into the transformative potential and affective agency of art. It is, moreover, an approach to curating that sets the table and the stage for the enactment of radical hospitality and generosity, one that is attuned to the performative, relational and sensuous processes of the alimentary in art, its relation to the everyday and its entanglement in the political economy of survival in a globalising world.
Through an experimental and iterative approach to testing, creating, engaging with, and displaying artistic ephemera and documentation, Bruised Food will present a series of process-focused projects from translocal artists (Asia / Australia) who will activate their research and audiences through performances, installations, workshops and critical dialogues around the precarious ecologies of food and art in a globalising world.
Bruised Food: A Living Laboratory is a project curated by Marnie Badham and Francis Maravillas, featuring artists Keg de Souza with Lucien Alperstein, Arahmaiani, Rhett D’Costa, Elia Nurvista and Stephen Loo. The project complements the exhibition Bruised: Art Action & Ecology in Asia at RMIT Gallery (12 April – 1 June 2019).
We gratefully acknowledge the support of RMIT Gallery curators Helen Rayment and Thao Nguyen, the Gallery’s media and technical staff, Evelyn Tsitas, Meg Taylor and Nick Devlin, as well as the generosity of our sponsor, Konfir Kabo.
We acknowledge the people of the Woi wurrung and Boon wurrung language groups of the eastern Kulin Nations on whose unceded lands we conduct this project and on which RMIT University stands. We respectfully acknowledge their Ancestors and Elders, past and present.
Marnie Badham is Vice Chancellor’s Post Doctoral Research Fellow at the School of Art, RMIT University. She is an artist-researcher in Canada and Australia with expertise in socially-engaged art, participatory advocacy methodologies, and the politics of cultural value. Her current focus is a series of creative cartography projects, social-art food curatorial projects, and a book project about artist residencies and the negotiations between artists and the communities and institutions that host them.
Francis Maravillas is Assistant Professor in the Critical and Curatorial Studies of Contemporary Art (CCSCA) program at the National Taipei University of Education. His research interests focus on contemporary art and visual culture in Asia and Australia, curatorial and exhibition histories, socially engaged and performative practices in art. He is currently writing a book on the aesthetics and politics of food in contemporary Asian art with a focus on socially engaged and performance practices in the region, and the sensuous, affective and relational connections they engender in the context of the gallery/museum and public space.
Banner image: Hunger, Inc. (2016), Elia Nurvista. Mix Media Installation (posters, video, rice and rice sacks). Installation shot, Simmer exhibition, LCC Kunstraum, New York. Photo credit: Jiwoon Yoon