Wednesday, October 12, 2011

Interview with emerging curator Feyza Yazar...

BB Gluttony and the Gourmand exhibition
Town Hall Gallery Curator, Mardi Nowak with mentee, Feyza Yazar.

1. Tell us about yourself! Where are you from?
I'm a Melbourne gal and I try to live up to the cliches of wearing black and drinking coffee! I'm currently a student at Deakin University in the throes of completing a Masters in Cultural Heritage degree and figuring out what I want to be when I grow up. After completing my undergraduate degree I left Australia on a one-way ticket and landed in Tokyo, where I spent the next ten years perfecting my ume-shu (plum wine) recipe and the fine art of dressing like a Harajuku girl. The former being successful and the latter, not so!

2. What inspired you to curate Gluttony and the Gourmand?
The concept of Gluttony and the Gourmand was ignited by my observations upon returning to Australia and realising Australians were consumed (and still are) by food and dining out. The pervasion of food related TV programms, blogs, restaurant reviews, celebrity chefs and conversations relating to food and dining struck me as bordering on the obsessive. The situation was made all the more pertinent when close to six million Australians watched the 2010 MasterChef finale, and the national election debate had to be moved to a different time slot for fear of low ratings! Adam Liaw and Callam Hann (the two amatuer chefs during the 2010 finale) had more appeal than Julia Gillard and Tony Abbot. Food for thought!

3. What has been the best experience as part of the THG Emerging Curator Program? What has been the most challenging?
The best experience of the THG Emerging Curator Program has been the opportunity to execute an exhibition from concept through to installation, and all that takes place in between. Curating an exhibition may sound rather simple but it is a multi-faceted process, which requires organizational skills, great time management and problem-solving wizardry! It's been a wonderful opportunity for which I am very grateful, as curatorial internships are extremely rare and highly coveted. Having the chance to work with artists has also been a brilliant experience. I am always in awe of creative people and their work, their vision and imagination delights and surprizes me. The challenging aspects relate to my having to juggle life, in particular student-life, and trying to dedicate time to both the exhibition and school work, it would easier if weren't the nerd that I am. Overall it has been a brilliant opportunity made all-the-more fun by my mentor Mardi Nowak, who has been a tremendous support.

4. What achievement are you most proud of to date?
Getting through this degree is a very proud achievement. Study is a very solitary pursuit, with hours of reading, writing and more reading, the end result is an alphanumeric grade not money, so keeping motivated is hard at times. In saying that, I do love it and on a good day when the birds are chirping and the sun is shinning I do entertain thoughts of completing a PhD. Utter madness, I know!

5. What do you think people will take away with them from seeing the exhibition?
I hope people leave the exhibition thinking about the multitude of ways food and contemporary food culture is constructed and represented, from both images in the media through to the final products we see on supermarket shelves and consume in restuarants. The food industry is a gargantuan industry with the heavyweights of advertising and marketing leading the pack and we as consumers/foodies are not passive agents within this equation but active participants by the decisions we make on where and what we choose to consume. I hope people find the exhibition thought provoking and critique their own relationship to contemporary food culture in Australia. It's also a great chance to see works by both established and emerging artists and support the arts community in Australia.

6. Where do you want to be in 10 years time? What's your dream?!
Gainfully employed in the arts, (is that an oxymoron?) would be a triumphant start! I still haven't purged the travel bug from my system so a curatorial stint at Istanbul Modern which lies on the shores of the Bosporus would be a dream come true.

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

Gluttony and the Gourmand exhibition essay

Progress Leader 4 October 2011 article
Article in the Progress Leader 4 October, 2011

Gluttony & the Gourmand features five works by contemporary Australian artists who are perplexed, consumed and nauseated by contemporary food culture. Working in different mediums, the artists examine the complex terrain which foodies navigate and our culturally loaded notions of status, celebrity and health.

Corinna Berndt’s series depicting ‘pretend gourmet dishes’, evokes the stylized images consumers are bombarded with in advertisements, books and tv programs. The visual representation of food in highly artificial terms, by the juggernauts of marketing and advertising, alongside the star power of celebrity-chefs play on the lifestyle aspirations of consumers. Within this paradigm, food and dining denotes one’s status within a social class and is more than the act of satiating hunger.

“I am interested the dramatic shift of representation of food through media. Whilst images of food in recipe books from previous decades could be considered more naturalistic, they now seem much less appetizing, and even garish, compared to the extremely manipulated and stylized images of food which inundate contemporary society nowadays. Food is no longer portrayed to resemble itself. Instead, much like the fashion industry, the media produces images of a highly constructed, plastic-like dream, playing on the multiple desires of the consumer.” (Corinna Berndt, 2011)

Annie Hsiao-Wen Wang’s ongoing series ‘Marketplace’ also explores the theme of the visual representation of food and contextualizes it within the traditional wet markets of Taiwan. Wang’s stark photographs highlight our disassociation with the origins of our food and are a commentary on the ‘highly sterilized and polished ‘food pornography’’ which pervades supermarkets and the dying tradition of food markets.

‘As a child growing up in Taipei many of my fond memories are of situations of meet and greet in these markets. However, Taiwan is now rapidly being taken over by western consumerist ideals; large, sterile shopping centers are gradually replacing these markets of old values and traditions.” (Annie Hsiao-Wen Wang, 2001)

As our obsession with food, dining and the cult of the celebrity-chef grows, so too does Australia’s battle of the bulge, heart disease and other lifestyle related illnesses. In this way, food becomes a contested zone, a never ending cycle of temptation and guilt. Kate Williams and Emma Hicks’ installation ‘Junk Thought’, comments on the increasingly conflicted relationship of food and health in contemporary Australian society and seeks to illicit alternatives to the current position.

“At the same time as Australians’ weight skyrockets we are bombarded with media images of ultra-thin models and celebrities; diet and exercise become the flip side of the one coin. Master Chef runs back-to-back with The Biggest Loser, tapping the same “Junk Thought”. Losing and gaining become one and the same, interchangeable, just more stuff to fill the void.” (Kate Williams & Emma Hicks, 2011)

Ruffbat Creative’s (duo team of Rhiannon Mc Lay and Josh Rufford) recent works allude to the epicurean tastes and the myriad of food movements and practices which have weaved their way into everyday discourse. These expensive products and complex food movements and practices are another minefield for foodies as vocabulary, lifestyles and budgets need to accommodate the next phase in culinary evolution.

“The pieces are illustrative explorations of some of the weird and wacky terms and explanations we’ve heard of and discovered ‘in our food journey’ (Masterchef pun intended)…Things like localvore, pescetarianism, ovo vegetarianism…..are all choices people make in their dietary preferences and needs.”(Ruffbat Creative, 2011)

In the ever expanding market of food-related entertainment and the appeal of the exotic the table feast by Katie Jacobs and Brittany Veitch alludes to the environmental impact of our consumption. The use of Australian native animals also hints at the commoditization of Australia’s unique fauna as consumable objects. The intricately detailed construction of Brittany Veitch’s hand-felted Bilby Suet Pudding sculpture alongside Katie Jacobs’s delicate and meticulously crafted ceramic works reference the labour-intensive and time-honoured art of cooking a feast.

Gluttony & the Gourmand exhibition intends to critique the complex and dynamic force which food and dining has within contemporary Australian culture and aims to leave the audience reflecting on his/her own relationship to food.

Essay by Feyza Yazar, 2011.