[iDC] Talking with Our Mouths Full

Ryan Griffis ryan.griffis at gmail.com
Fri Jan 13 13:21:39 EST 2006

i just posted this to the IDC blog as well (links to outside sites 
available there), but thought it also pertained to some ongoing 
discussions here.


Last night, I attended a dual talk by writer Lori Waxman and artist 
Michael Rakowitz (both in from Brooklyn) at Mess Hall in Chicago. Lori 
presented a paper that she's written on FOOD, the artist-collaborative 
restaurant started by Gordon Matta-Clark, Carol Goodden and Tina 
Girouard in 1971 in SoHo (I think I'm remembering the location 
correctly?). FOOD seems like an early experiment in what would later 
become service-based aesthetics and also an investigation into the 
growth of the service economy and the "flexible personality" of the 
artist. Having seen the Matta-Clark film bearing FOOD's name, I had 
only known that such a project existed, without any details... a fact 
reinforcing Lori's assertion that, when FOOD is discussed at all, it is 
largely done so within the framework of Matta-Clark, a framework that 
gaines power from the artist's early death (not unlike Smithson). The 
restaurant became more of a business concerned with its economic 
vitality after 1973, when the artists pretty much left and the specific 
geo-cultural situation changed. Lori ended with the looping, and 
unresolvable question of whether the artists left because FOOD was 
becoming a business, or if it became a business because they left.

Rakowitz talked about some of his past projects, including the PARAsite 
project (which was recently represented in Ljubljana) and Minaret. He 
also went into a new, developing work that involves running an import 
business. Based on his family history, Jewish Iraqis that immigrated to 
NY after the creation Isreal, the business imports products (especially 
some apparently really tasty Iraqi date syrup - Rakowitz claims Iraq 
produces the best dates in the world, with hundreds of varieties.) from 
Iraq at a loss due to the ridiculously high tarrifs placed on Iraqi 
imports. So your four dollar can of date syrup would run 35 dollars! To 
paraphrase the artist, "If you don't get pissed off about people dying 
in Iraq, maybe you'll get pissed off about the price of your date 
syrup." These projects, as Michael explained them, explore his interest 
in the possibility of failure (in terms of absolute function) to create 
a meaningful disturbance in discursive and symbolic space.

There are many questions brought up by both presentations related to 
the economics of art and the possibility for engagement through mundane 
and "everyday" processes. In the historical context, there is always 
the question of sustainability of the record (the official archive), 
but maybe the more important questions relate to how art, without 
taking for granted its accepted role and definition, interacts with/in 
what's going on around us.

More information about the iDC mailing list