CATE
SMITH
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who's pulling the strings

1992

statement

Food for Thought: Who's Pulling the Strings and The Kitchen
1992
Food for Thought addresses our basic need for nourishment. As individuals we seek to fulfill our emotional desires through companionship and a sense of community. At the same time, the physical needs of all of us can only be met when that same community is responsive to these needs. Society balances between an organized goal-oriented body and a chaotic unstructured mass appearing as if it is too fragmented to define itself from within. It is that process of defining ourselves which brings us closer to a sense of community—to fulfilling our desires. Yet, ironically, this act also separates us and brings us into conflict as the needs of some groups are privileged over the others. While the act of naming ourselves is essential for seeking out others who might nourish us—who won’t make us feel vulnerable—when we take on labels, we also fall into categories with pre-existing stereotypes, which fragment and weaken these bonds.

In Who’s pulling the strings, forty bowls, each with a line from the personals, encircle the room. Each bowl sits on a shelf that resembles a large dining table cut into small pieces. Above each bowl is an upside down container of salt. Viewers are invited to pull the string above any bowl they choose, thereby nourishing one of the individuals represented by a line on a bowl. Below the bowls, inaccessible and ineffective forks are encased behind glass.  Each piece of glass is etched with the name of a group of people. Examples are: “crowds of chanting demonstrators” and “thousands of displaced persons.” The front page of the newspaper provides these phrases that contrast with those of individuals on the bowls.

The Kitchen is made up of canned and boxed food and form the elements of a kitchen: stove, counter, sink and refrigerator. Members of the community donated money to the local food bank, which in turn lent the food for the exhibition. The kitchen seems like an appropriate vehible for looking at the role of society in nourishing its individual members and for questioning the role of the artist.
Can the artist still provide emotional and intellectual nourishment? One would hope we can at least provide a little food for thought.