Art you can eat: F&P at Defibrillator

March 10, 2011

A lot of our artists wanted to work with sweets this time,” says Ania Greiner, codirector of F&P (Food/Performance). “There’s gonna be a lot of sweets. There are a few savories. But the first event was all savories.”

“Except for gumballs,” Jessica Hannah, Greiner’s fellow director, reminds her.

So, maybe don’t plan on eating dinner at the third performance Greiner and Hannah have curated, Saturday and Sunday only at Defibrillator Performance Art Gallery (RSVP required). This gorgeous new space on Milwaukee—which looks like a cross between an old-style Chicago bar and the inside of a spaceship—is the baby of performance artist Joseph Ravens (of penis-baring fame, thanks to the Chicago Artists Coalition and the Reader).

“Food and performance art—everybody’s been doing that for quite a while,” says Hannah. “But we have this idea of interactivity, just getting involved, that goes back to the food movement: slow food, community-supported agriculture. Get involved, be a part of what you’re doing, don’t just shove food into your mouth without thinking. Two concepts here: performance, body. What are you doin’ with your body, what are you puttin’ into your body?”

Greiner adds, “A lot of the artists really took that on as a great challenge—this is about my issues with food, it’s about recipes, it’s about food culture. There are so many avenues.”

It’s basically a grazing situation, with a menu provided. Most of the ten artists will be roaming around while others will be planted near their props or installations. Though performers might invite you to participate or talk to you, audience members come and go and do as they please.

Janet Schmid has built a huge bird’s nest out of repurposed milk jugs, while Fereshteh Toosi has created a box full of “mouth-watering” items you can feel and smell but not see. Carolyn Hoerdemann wanders the space asking people to partake of the bizarre recipes from F.T. Marinetti’s 1930 “Futurist Cookbook,” and food-industry workers Erin Peisert and Elena Katsulius examine the “dessert moment” for women in restaurants. As part of their Hug Project, Aurora Tabar and Sara Zalek are offering cookies with words on them in a take on refrigerator-magnet poetry.

Carron Little, who’s Scottish, came to America and found that “everything is heightened,” Hannah says, in processed foods. “The salt content is tripled, and sugar doubled. And these are products we’re getting addicted to. She’ll be inviting people to participate in a process of force-feeding. We don’t know all the details of that one!”

In “Spoiled,” Jeffrey Grauel offers audience members junk food. “He grew up one summer with his grandfather, who kept an entire shelf of Ding-Dongs and Orange Crush,” says Hannah. “Jeffrey gained a lot of weight that summer, so he’s responding to that.” Greiner adds, “He also really bonded with his grandfather over the Ding-Dongs and Orange Crush. Jeffrey works with scent a lot, so he’s infusing these Ding-Dongs with…” Her voice trails off. I’m afraid to think what he’s infusing them with.

“We all have these connections with food,” Greiner says. “So it’s really hard to know how audiences will respond. Maybe Ding-Dongs were someone’s sacred food! Or, someone else, it was their curse in high school.”