Viviane Le Courtois: Edible? Exhibition Paper

Heather Nelson

Professor Van Lil

ARTH 3539-001

30 April 2012

Viviane Le Courtois: Edible?

            The exhibition I observed is called “Edible” at the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art (BMoca) by the artist Viviane Le Courtois. Le Courtois has been working with food for the last twenty-two years. Although she was born in France in 1969, she moved to the United States in 1994 and currently lives in Denver, Colorado. “She received her Diploma National Superieur d’Expression Plastique (MFA) in Sculpture/Installations from the International School of Art and Research in Nice, France in 1992 and an MA in Art History from the University of Denver in 2000” (Le Courtois, 2012). The exhibit focused on where food comes from, what happens to it along the way, and what its role is in our common and community lives. “Through sculptures, performance, videos, photographs, prints, and interactive installations, Le Courtois explores the processes of consumption, focusing on the repetitive aspects of food preparation, ceremonial food offerings, and the social implications of eating” (Le Courtois, 2012).

In the BMOCA museum, there are two different parts of the exhibit, the first being “The Garden of Earthly Delights” and the other “Fat Kids.” Le Courtois wanted to present art that favored sustainability and a “do it yourself” way of life. This exhibit made me realize that I need to pay more attention to what I eat and that it is easier to grow my own food than I thought. Le Courtois describes the piece as “an interactive, living installation with plants growing. There will be all kinds of herbs and micro-greens and green vegetables growing and changing over the time of the exhibit” (Calhoun, 2012). When you first walk into the exhibit, the plants are arranged in different sections, as though they were mini gardens on the floor. Each mini garden had around night pots of different plants. These mini gardens reference the ancient process of growing, collecting, and consuming plants. Each plant is growing something that Le Courtois claims as edible. Every Saturday, from 1-3pm, Viviane Le Courtois visits the museum. In the museum she waters and cares for the plant. She also feeds visitors parts of the plants that are edible and serves them Kombucha tea. This was the most interesting part of the museum for me.

As I paid to tour the museum, I was asked if I would be interested in trying some of Le Courtois’s Kombucha tea that has been harvesting for some time. Although I was hesitant at first, I decided to try it. Normally, people who visit the museum in groups are allowed to enjoy their tea on a rug together. However, I was the only person in the museum at the time (besides the people who work there). I enjoyed my tea while standing, which was perfectly fine by me. I was given a fragile orange clay cup. The cup was raw and the material was weak, which is why you can only drink out of it once without it breaking. On the wall there were pencil drawings, which were framed, of Kombucha and how it grows. Kombucha is an effervescent tea-based beverage that is often consumed for its anecdotal health benefits or medicinal purposes. There are around twelve or so drawings that show the Kombucha cells growing and developing more bacteria over time. Then, in the corner of the room, there was a giant jar of the tea. I have Kombucha all the time and have seen how the bacteria rise to the service. However, the amount of bacteria at the top of the jay was extremely thick and appeared hard. I was given some of the tea and drank it. It tasted great to me, with very natural flavors. It was more raw and plain than the other types of Kombucha that I normally have. After I was done, which was pretty quickly, I was told to throw my cup. The right wall of the museum was completely empty, except for the ground. The floor was covered in smashed clay cups. According to Le Courtois, “They are inspired by the chai cups they use in India. They serve the chai in a cup that is low-fire and so fragile that you can drink from it once and then throw it away out the window, and it just dissolves” (Calhoun, 2012). I think this was a great way to get visitors to interact with the art and the plants. Also, it allows the observer to interact with other people who have visited the museum, even if they are not there. The interaction is at its peak when a group visits the museum together, drinks tea together, and smashes their cups as a unit.

 

The next part of the exhibition had more to do with eating and overeating. This area also included videos of the artist. “The instillation is inspired by the behaviors of people mingling in small groups at opening receptions. Designed for people to hang out, think and interact, the installation is a changing piece, relying on peoples’ interaction. The piece developed from experimentation and encounters, and is based on sustainable ways of producing art, food, and hand-made objects” (Le Courtois, 2012). The first thing that stood out to me was along the entire left wall and included ten pictures of Ms. Le Courtois eating. She is sitting Indian style in each, wearing black sweatpants and a black oversized sweater. She is eating licorice from a plate, revealing individual mannerisms and body language while they eat. These portraits made me slightly uncomfortable and forced me to question how I eat and how others view me while I am eating. It made me want to be more of a delicate eater in the future, which is something I have never gotten from an art exhibit before.

Continuing through the exhibit, the two things that stood out to me the most were the over-life-size sculptures of overweight individuals. One was made from a glossy orange, sponge-like material, while other (given the name “Shane”) was made out of mini marshmallows glued together. The orange figure was obese looking and was lying sideways, with its right hand under its head. It almost resembled a sumo wrestler. For me, I think this was representing the bad or unhealthy aspects of food. I think it is supposed to resemble the negative things that we sometimes put into our body.

In my opinion, this part of the exhibition really reflects the community of Boulder and adds more value to it being placed in the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art rather than the one in Denver. Boulder, as a community, prides itself in being organic, active, and eco-friendly. There are tons of programs and events that help children eat healthy and learn how to grow their own food. Our community is different than many others, who are forced to eat unhealthy and eat fast food do to lack of means or resources. I think that this aspect of the exhibit reflects struggles of many communities and children who are impacted by food and eating. Next to this are shelves with jars of such unhealthy foods, such as hot dogs, peeps, and all sorts of candy. These foods are still in tact because of all the chemicals put into them, making them last longer than organic food. The next sculpture was of a man standing with his hands in his pocket. This multicolored marshmallow man was very large and resembled someone very unhealthy. At the end of this exhibit there was a video of the artists peeling potatoes, over and over again. Underneath the video, on the floor, there were actual potatoes peels covering the area.

 

I think the purpose of combining these two areas was to show that “recycling, collecting, growing, transforming, and accepting the unexpected challenge of an involving life “ is extremely important. Unfortunately, “the process of growing plants, collecting and eating them with others is ancient and sometimes forgotten” (Le Courtois, 2012). Viviane Le Courtois allows us to re-enter this type of organic and simple life-style and influenced me to want to change my eating and cooking habits. Watching the artists eat and being one with all of the different aspects of the exhibit allowed me to feel connected to my body and realize the importance of that connection between people and nature. There is a natural, pure way of living that is not embraced by most of the people in our world. However, it is not impossible. It would take a lot of hard work and dedication, however, I would like to try and get back to my roots and live this way. I want to realize my own connection to what I eat and understand its significance to a fuller extent.

 

Sources:

Le Courtois, V. (2012, Apr 29). Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art Pamphlet. Spring Exhibitions 2012.

Calhoun, P. (2012, Jan 03). Shirt happens..and viviane le courtois wants yours. Retrieved from http://blogs.westword.com/showandtell/2012/01/dear_art_friends_happy_new.php

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

2 Responses

  1. I also went to this exhibit, and I loved it! Your paper is great, and I really liked the part where you discussed the clay cups. I only thought about how I was interacting with the artist when I threw mine, but you brought up a great point: the pile of broken cups lets you interact with those that had come before you.

    I thought the interaction between artist and audience was the best part of the whole show. I’m glad to see I’m not the only one who had fun!

  2. Your paper made me want to go to the show!! Do you think that since you visited alone, and that there was nobody else was on the tour with you to drink tea with you, that something was lost? It would be interesting to go back another time when it is more crowded so that you could go drink the tea with other visitors. I think it would make a huge difference, making the show a more social experience for you because you’d also be interacting with other visitors and how they perceive the piece. Or when the artist was there too!

    Also, I wonder if the show has travelled anywhere else? You mentioned that it seemed very appropriate for the show to be in Boulder because of the healthy lifestyle that our community shares. But what do you think the show would be like if it were in a city with poor overall health? I feel like it would be very foreign, and would have lost some of its meaning. What do you think?

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