© Alicia Rios, from A Temperate Manu (An Edible Garden). Photographs by Jesús Porteros.
excerpt from a conversation between Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett and Alicia Rios + Christopher Winks, regarding the work A Temperate Menu firstly showed at the Centre for Performance Research, Cardiff, Wales (UK), in 1994. Published in TDR (1988-), Vol. 41, No. 2 (Summer, 1997), pp. 90-110
KIRSHENBLATT-GIMBLETT: You have to be very creative to work with what’s there. It’s finally not about money. Even with limited means, there are rich possibilities.
RIOS: Sometimes the very combination of limited space and time makes it still harder, because more time, even the same space and the same ingredients will give you more possibilities. Our time was limited to a morning because two assistants went to hear papers. They were volunteers. They had not been paid to help me.
KIRSHENBLATT-GIMBLETT: Did you encounter anybody who did not understand what you had done, that didn’t get it?
RIOS: Oh, no. I was very satisfied because everybody understood it perfectly. It’s wonderful to have good interlocutors, that’s the ideal.
KIRSHENBLATT-GIMBLETT: Please continue.
RIOS: One aspect of cooking that I like is a condition that I believe is common to theatre and cookery. I consider the role of the cook in somewhat philosophical terms as maieutic. The mother of Socrates, the Greek philosopher, was a midwife.
KIRSHENBLATT-GIMBLETT: A midwife?
RIOS: He called his method “maieutic.”
KIRSHENBLATT-GIMBLETT: Oh, midwifery.
RIOS: The philosopher, in his dialogs, acted as a midwife because by asking…
KIRSHENBLATT-GIMBLETT: …he helps deliver.
RIOS: Yes. A cook is engaged in a maieutic process. So are performers. After you have been to the theatre, you aren’t the same. The actors are maieutic in that they’re bringing things out of you. The cook also “delivers” people. Some of them may have felt like gardeners for the first time that day. Perhaps they’ve never used field implements before. Or if you think in terms of an- other kind of menu, Chinese cuisine for example, it may be the first time that some people feel themselves to be Chinese.
KIRSHENBLATT-GIMBLETT: You distributed a “menu” for the garden. It says: So the menu is a portrait in which you read, you translate into edible terms, you choose an aesthetic code-colors, textures, flavors-and you deconstruct it, get it out of its context, manipulate and bring it to realization, empower the idea, and choose the right language. I always look for happiness or integration, I reject association with frustration. Since to me food is looking forward, and forward one feels more free, just grasping the instant and projecting it free from morals, just for enjoyment.
RIOS: One of the cook’s potentials is to produce pleasure.
KIRSHENBLATT-GIMBLETT: That’s very interesting. With one exception, all the food performance pieces at the conference were about pain.
FERNANDEZ: Especially the ones by women…
RIOS: I too was surprised that all the solo performances were by women. No men did solo performances. We didn’t get to know the masculine subconsciousness.
FERNANDEZ: I was saying in our discussion group that the women’s performances were about painful aspects of food-you are overweight, you are underweight, you have cellulite, you have cholesterol, etc. They were all facing pain. All the performances by men were about pleasure, for example, the futurist banquet, Sempronio’s Lunch, presented by Giinter Berghaus, and Franco Taruschio’s demonstration of melanzane in carrozza. Theirs is the pleasure. The women have to face the problems. Alicia also said in that discussion that as a psychologist, she doesn’t feel she has to confront pathology all the time.
KIRSHENBLATT-GIMBLETT: In our discussion group, a woman who’s more into the visual arts said that what she loved about Alicia’s work was how it closed the gap between art and everyday life. I would say that A Temperate Menu operated in the space between them. She said it closed the gap.
RIOS: I believe that there must be intentionality in art. You work on an abstraction. You give this abstraction an aesthetic dimension. You convert it. In the end the outcome has a certain aesthetic value. What I do in Spain, in Madrid, does not have the aesthetic value that it has in London or New York. Even though much depends on what is valued in each context, ultimately the result is independent of reception. It is a style. It is a form of conceptual art that invites an appreciative mind or eye.
© Alicia Rios, from Edible Hats Postcards, 1995. Photographs by Alejandro Pradera.
“Throughout history puritanical cultures have rejected fancy foods as a frill that goes beyond food’s primary purpose of sustenance. Although at first glance these hats may seem frivolous, I intend quite the opposite. Just as the goddess Athena was born winged from the head of Zeus, so these edible hats relate to the world of ideas, to the collective subconscious that arises from the head. These hats are, for me, like altars that bear the most sacred and peaceful offerings.”
Alicia’s statement. Excerpt from Gastronomica: The Journal of Food and Culture, Winter 2005, 5.1, pp.113-4.