Wednesday, May 07, 2008

an art discussion

My slightly more clean than a week ago garage was home to an argument recently between me and a friend, Franklin. He decided to bring the argument onto the internet tubes which requires I answer in kind. Feel free to click over and pay Franklin a visit and read his misguided opinion as my post mostly answers his arguments with my own as opposed to a more normal presentation and discussion of ideas that I might go into were this one of my normal rants.

The argument is whether or not food is art. I will allow that foods can be used to create art, and I will even add that I feel food can be presented artistically, but I do not believe that food is art.

A main argument is that art can be created out of disparate elements, things that would not generally go together, and they can be put together in a way that tells the story the artist intends or to elicit some feeling or emotion. Food however, if one intends to create good and edible food, needs to be created with elements that go together.

The suggestion that anything edible appeals to someone is invalid in my opinion. Certainly we have to accept that certain cultures enjoy foods that other cultures wouldn't recognize as food, but that suggests that culture has less to do with it than familiarity.

The majority of foods people eat are rather old combinations. Over time, as people have experimented with food combinations, things that don't work were allowed to fall by the side. They don't work because the vast majority of people have agreed that they are not good combinations, that they don't produce good food.

Art encompasses a variety of mediums, and it is possible to create work that some will call art while others see as not art. Food is created from a variety of elements and can be produced using a variety of tools, but in the end the food must taste good and be edible. Art can be either ugly or beautiful and need not even make sense. Food, along with being edible and good flavored needs also to be presented well. A diner presented the very finest dish of perfectly seared scallops atop a perfect portion of garlicky grits will indeed be happy, though if you place it under a dome covered in shit and vomit, even though the shit and vomit never touch or befoul the food, the same diner will likely move along to the next option.

It's really more about certain inherent rules. Art need not be pretty or attractive to be appreciated. Food must maintain a certain dynamic of attractive and flavorful in order to be acceptable as food.

p.s. a little edit to add that the great and mighty Wordpress apparently is neither as great nor as mighty as some would have us believe, otherwise they would let me sign in. I am registered there at least twice, one of my own and one via Franklin, and neither of them work.


Theron said...

"Food must maintain a certain dynamic of attractive and flavorful*ness* in order to be acceptable as food."

really its what's acceptable as good food. Making bad food doesn't make it not food, just like making bad art doesn't make it not art. Art is that process of taking rudimentary elements in an attempt to evoke a meaningful response. everything on top of the process is a matter of opinion. You mentioned a lot of things that are required in presentation and flavor choice that would make food acceptable. You could put shit on food and no one could eat it but it would still be food and that instinctual repulsion from shit on food could be the emotion the "artist" was going for.

Chris said...

I think that you are trying to compare the whole scope of what YOU consider art to be to food. Within the classification of all that is art are many different facets. Da Vinci does not equal Monet, even though both used painting as an outlet. Leonardo went in other directions.

Also, even in your treatise on what art is, you seem to say that the definition of art belongs to the artist. Anyone could throw a transmission from an El Camino into a swimming pool and claim that it was art. If the artist has the power of definition, then why could a chef or even a Waffle House cook not call their plated food a work of art?

Does art need to make a statement? Not really. The artist could have been merely thinking, "Wow, that field of dandelions is beautiful. I think I'll take a picture of it."

I don't know how many times I've walked through the Art Festival in Piedmont Park and had the words of Teddy Roosevelt go through my head: "If that's art, then I'm a Hottentot." Well, at least I think that he said that.

So, who defines art? Is it the artist or does art exist in the eye and other senses of the beholder?

trish said...

"Food must maintain a certain dynamic of attractive and flavorful*ness* in order to be acceptable as food."

I think that what makes it acceptable as food is the degree of hunger of the person looking at it. If I was hungry enough, or in starvation mode, I'd eat the food with the shit dome. Heck, I might even eat shit, although that might be bad for my health. So food has two functions - nourish the body (prevent starvation), and make your taste buds say YUM! (art comes into play here). It's still food if it tastes like shit, but still satisfies your hunger. But it may not be art if it tastes bad, and the chef didn't intend to fashion anything other than nourishment for the body.

I think you are talking about the issue of rules in art. You seem to suggest that most real art can break all the rules (or have no rules) and still be art. But perhaps you just aren't able to see the rule going on in someone's head when they make it.

I believe that food can be art. But it can also be just another way to satisfy your hunger, as in the example I presented above. When in starvation mode, the food is still food (e.g. nourishment for the body), but rules, such as how much garlic you added, can be thrown out.

Take music. Most people consider music a form of art. Musicians generally carefully manipulate the rules (like harmony, disonance, etc.) to make their version of art. But I have listened to music that seems to throw out all the rules and sounds downright terrible. In that case, either I can't discern the artistry of the musician, or the musician needs to get better, or the musician was merely making sound, and not music (art).

skullface said...


I have to admit I like this statement from theron in relation to food. That is how I feel about making food for other people to eat:

"Art is that process of taking rudimentary elements in an attempt to evoke a meaningful response."

All that aside, reading your two blogs projects a slight misunderstanding somewhere in there. Franklin's argument is that the creation or building of food and art is similar, while Samuel's is that food is not art. I tend to agree that, while dishes can be beautifully presented, food is not art. Yet I also agree and appreciate that (the making of) food is like (the making of) art. Also, I get really passionate about food, much in the same way I get about art, though, I would not say the food "moves" me, whereas, with art, I have most certainly been moved to tears on more than a few occasions.

Ren said...

I don't think this is an either/or argument. It's setting up a false dichotomy to argue whether food is art or not.

It CAN be. If you're talking just the edible stuff, even that CAN be. It all depends on how the person is approaching it and what the desired outcome is.

I'm not a chef, but I am an artist and all I know is when a really artful dish is placed in front of me I DO think "wow, that's a work of art"...

Everything is art.
It's about the way we choose to see it I suppose.