Accepted abstract - Creative Tastebuds Symposium 2020

'In the house of Martha and Mary'

Innovation showcase
By Phyllis Wong, studio pw/, Rotterdam The Netherlands.

'In the house of Martha and Mary' is a multi-disciplinary project reflecting our over-consumption of foreign imported food. This unsustainable eating practice can be avoided if we patronise more our own locally or regionally grown supply. By doing so, social issues occurring at the foreign grower’s countries due to the high demand from the European market can be prevented.

'In the house of Martha and Mary’ is firstly a contemporary photographic artwork (Figure 1) that is staged and inspired by the 16th century still life paintings ‘Christ in the house of Martha and Mary’ notably painted by Pieter Aertsen and Joachim Beuckelaar. These paintings is adapted from a chapter from St Luke’s Gospel (Luke 10: 38-42). ‘In the house of Martha and Mary’ outlines our indulgence of exotic food imported from foreign countries that creates numerous social and environmental problems. By bringing these food to our plate, it brought about issues concerning conflicts at growers’ countries, drug cartel, deforestation, high carbon footprint etc. It reflects a part of our current day food culture that is unsustainable while at the same time pointing at a biblical reference.

Figure 1: In the house of Martha and Mary, 2020*

Sitten on the right of this artwork, ‘Martha’ contemplates on a lavish spread of local and seasonal produce widely grown, cultivated and available in the Netherlands and its region. While on the left, ‘Mary’ starstruck and seemingly smiling at an imported pineapple on her hands. This is an allegory to St Luke’s Gospel (Luke 10: 38-42), whereby Mary being fascinated by the presence of Christ and the wisdom of his words during his visit. Hence Mary chose not to help her sister, Martha, who is busy preparing a sumptuous meal in the kitchen for Christ and his disciples. The pun of this comparison is how consumers now have completely devout oneself with the bountiful availability of imported food, very much similar to the belief and loyalty of a religious faith. This work aims to reveal the malfunctioning social issue of ours in an art form. Also, it hopes to act as

a consumer reminder while raising awareness about adjusting our tastebuds to help to reduce or omit suffering from our environment and the people near and far.

As the artwork carries biblical reference, the installation of the artwork and innovation showcase aims to reference an altar set up. By mimicking so, the artwork is proposed to be projected at the end wall of the exhibition hall (Figure 2). A contemporary and simplified ‘confession’ pew is placed in front of the artwork. It is designed for the audience to kneel on (like a penitent) to review a questionnaire about their own foreign food consumption. I, the artist and designer behind the ensemble, will assist the audience with the questions, acting loosely as a priest reviewing a penitent’s confession.

Figure 2: Proposed layout of innovation showcase

According to the answers of the questionnaire, alternative and similar options (with Aarhus and Denmark as context) are suggested to the audience in replacement to the foreign imports the audience picked. These sourced options carry similar taste, texture and/or nutrients as the foreign food selected. This concept is to promote sustainable eating and support local resources; all in tune to reduce the impact of importing foreign items. At the same time, the concept thrives to glorified Aarhus’ (and Danish) culinary options that are rich and interesting as it ranges from land grown to sea sourced gourmet.

At the end of the confessing experiment, small circular pieces of locally made knækbrød will be handed out to the penitent. These tasters are inspired by altar crackers or hostia given out by the priest after a mass or communion. This edible memorabilia is to suggest a binding understanding of the reflection between the audience and the artist.

This innovation showcase hopes to provoke subtle criticism while giving the audience substantial self-reflection and contemplation. The demand for foreign food, much to the culture of globalisation is commonly practised among us. This convenience has become a big part of our daily lives and we are either not educated about the issues that come with it or have simply overlooked the consequences.

‘In the house of Martha and Mary’ and its innovation showcase offers a very relevant relationship with Creative TasteBuds’s concept. The idea of preaching sustainable eating and reflecting upon imported food culture in this project can literally alter our tastebuds to a new and better food choices. In a more general scheme, the hope is that this reflection will lead to an alteration on a more global scale which then can have the power to make real changes in a bigger spectrum. The project artistry is impactful with reference to ‘Christ in the house of Martha and Mary’ biblical citation and its contemporary interpretation. Finally, the artwork and its innovation showcase crosses different mediums and promote interactive participation which will enhance the audience interest.

*Artwork credits
Title:In the house of Martha and Mary, 2020
Art Direction & Curating: Phyllis Wong
Photography: Erikjan Koopmans
Editing: Erikjan Koopmans, Phyllis Wong
Models: Noa & Meggie van Ijsseldijk
MUAH: Eveline Carpier
Assistants: Bart de Groot, Pim Louf
Products: Foekje Fleur, Minale-Maeda, Lex Pott, Julie Thissen, Juliette Warmenhoven, Woodchuck