People use food to great effect. Is food for them the material or the subject, or both?
Check out this cast salt.
Having made molds this whole last month and seen paper cast and made apple juice ice cubes out of cardboard molds- what if food material is cast to another ends? What of bread? What of rice balls? What of jello molds? Pineapple upside down cake?
|ken + julia yonetani|
The Last Supper, 2014
Material: Murray River Salt
Dimensions: 9 meters (length) x 0.72 m (width) x 1.22 m (height)
“Da Vinci coupled the Last Supper with an image of salt representing a bad omen. Ken + Julia Yonetani created their Last Supper, an image of a large banquet, a feast before entering the afterlife, out of salt, itself another bad omen – foreshadowing the death of the ecosystem”Megan Fizell
The Yonetani’s first began working with salt in 2010 during a Synapse art-science residency awarded by the Australian Network for Art & Technology (ANAT) which resulted in a three month collaboration with scientists at the Murray Darling Freshwater Research Centre and Sunrise 21 in Mildura (as part of Mildura Palimpsest). During this residency, they developed a technique that enabled them to work with salt in such a way that it could be poured into moulds and then cured to produce objects. The resulting work was Still Life: The Food Bowl, a small scale installation featuring one table laden with produce from the Mildura region.
The Last Supper, a nine metre long banquet table sculpted entirely from more than one tonne of Murray River salt, is a continuation of this project on a much larger scale. The work points to concerns arising from increasing salinity levels in Australia and unsustainable agricultural practices. In the aftermath of the Fukushima disaster, the massive banquet of luxurious foodstuffs also becomes a larger visualisation of the problems of food security and safety in an increasingly toxic world.
The salt used in the work is a small portion of the 550 tonnes of groundwater salt from the Murray Darling basin that is pumped out of the ground each year to try and stem the increasing rise of highly saline groundwater in an area that produces up to ninety per cent of Australia’s domestically grown fresh food.
Historically, salt has significant cultural and religious properties. The title of the work, The Last Supper, also references the idea of a last supper on the eve before death – a feast before entering the afterlife – and immediately brings to mind Leonardo Da Vinci’s masterpiece,The Last Supper (1494–1498), which depicts Christ and the twelve disciples sharing a last meal before the crucifixion. However, the relationship between Da Vinci’s work and the Yonetani’s is drawn even closer when considering the significance of salt to both works. In Da Vinci’s The Last Supper close inspection of the work shows Judas Iscariot knocking over the salt cellar and spilling it onto the table. Salt is often considered to be a symbol of trust and friendship because of its lasting quality and the spilling of salt was thought to be an omen associated with treachery and lies. This work was commissioned by Hazelhurst Regional Gallery, curated by Carrie Kibbler.
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Artist StatementI use functional pots as a vehicle for setting tables with visual stories. Through everyday ceramic pieces I can subtly, and even a little subversively, explore my interest in issues surrounding food production, transportation, energy use and climate change. Researching these interconnected contemporary themes drives my current studio practice, but the seeds of this work were sown over twenty years ago. As a child in Alaska I witnessed first hand the devastation wrought by the expansive Exxon Valdez oil spill of 1989. In the following decades, the essence of that childhood experience simmered beneath the surface, ebbing and flowing with the world’s evolving energy story. My subconscious inklings became concrete realities after reading The Omnivore’s Dilemma by food activist Michael Pollan. Pollan’s book identified a thread running through agriculture, pesticides, fertilizers and oil – intertwining layers that have since become prominent themes in my work. As his writing shaped my mental framework, I aimed to translate Pollan’s words into meaningful imagery, to bring ideas off the page and place them squarely in reality as physical objects at the table.
I continue to discover a seemingly endless string of food and energy related books, documentaries, articles, podcasts and radio stories that spur new directions as I reinterpret what I see and hear into ceramic objects. While those written words in The Omnivore’s Dilemma initially inspired me to pursue images on clay, the high-tech food production documentary, Our Daily Bread, demonstrated the unique power of visuals alone. Free of dialogue and its overt opinions, Our Daily Bread’s scenes are shot with the rumbling hum of processing equipment, the rhythmic swoosh of hand-harvesting lettuce, or the nervous clucking of chickens in transport as a soundtrack. The result is a startling vehicle for open-ended personal interpretation, discussion and debate. It was Our Daily Bread that encouraged me to pursue my interests in the form of visual questions, rather than rigid statements, to allow users breathing room for their own associations and connections.
The functionality of the pieces I create serves as a daily nudge to reflect on the interwoven nature of our lifestyle choices and the broader world around us. I deeply appreciate the process of visually wrestling with contemporary challenges on beautiful daily-use ceramics – creating functional art that by its very nature compels repeated scrutiny. Ultimately, I hope that with the regular rotation of these pots through everyday moments, users will peel back the layers of my work, open dialog with those who share their tables, and explore how their own personal actions can influence our collective future.
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