Wednesday, 3 December 2008

Jenny Francis' latest installation

The other day I saw Jenny trying to move a table. 'Let me help you with that,' I said. 'Where do you want it?' 'Just over here,' she said, 'where it will be out of the way.' What I didn't realise is that what would be 'out of the way' was her latest installation, a continuation of the themes she has been exploring of body image and self-image, particularly of women. Last year she drew silhouette outlines around people on lengths of wallpaper, then asked them to circle with chunky marker pens the parts of their bodies that they didn't like. This year the visitor was confronted with...

...a table covered with a range of smoothies in plastic cups with bubble dome covers with jaunty straws stuck in, and brightly coloured stickers on the side. There was a bubblicious menu as well. So far so much like many fast-food outlets purporting to serve 'healthy' food. Food, I thought eagerly, having been drawn to the table like a magnet at the prospect. I wonder if we're supposed to sample this stuff. I hesitated. Somewhere along the line, without my realising it, I must have imbibed a rule that said 'DON'T EAT THE ART'. Or at least, not unless you're absolutely sure that you're supposed to. Caffi Clonc had, after all, been advertised as a cafe. But what about this? I peered closer.

There are certain colours that food 'ought' to be. This bran colouring wasn't quite what I expected in a smoothie. I peered closer at the 'menu'. The contents of each smoothie were the entire menu of what the artist ate each day of the week. So the smoothies were... all that food, whizzed together in a blender: toast, breakfast cereal, vegetables, fruit, cakes, the lot. Which made the results disturbingly like what we see when we are sick to our stomachs. Ugh.

Upon reflection, of course, there is nothing wrong with eating any of the smoothie ingredients individually. It was just the idea of having them all together that provoked the gag reflex. And yet, there was the menu.

Each day of the week was labelled with a very self-critical comment: 'too many carbs Wednesday', 'can't stop eating Saturday'. So there it was - the reality of the attitudes to food of so many women (and some men), so much of the time.

Something to chew on.

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