Viviane Le Courtois: Edible?

Shelby Simpson

BMoca Exhibtion Paper

Viviane Le Courtois: Edible

After spending a lovely afternoon, shopping around for fresh locally grown produce, and two rounds of the best vegetable dumplings at the farmers market, I walked into the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art to see what the museum had to offer.  Being the first time I have visited the BMoCA, I was pleasantly surprised by the omnibus of the building.  The museum is only two floors, giving artist the opportunity to really invest in a particular idea.  In this case, I was fortunate enough to experience Viviane Le Courtois’ exhibit.  “Le Courtois has been working with food as a medium or source of inspiration since 1990, Edible? presents the first opportunity to experience a large selection from this body of work in content.”  Through a collection of videos, sculptures, installations, prints, and photographs,  Le Courtois explores how we consume our food, and which foods we choose to ingest into our bodies.

I first walked into the exhibit a little bit confused with what the artist was presenting to her audience.  I saw plants grown in system on the floor, a pile of broken pots on one wall, and sketches of organic forms on the far wall.  After walking around, trying to put all this information together, a woman from the front desk, ask my friends and I if we would like a cup of tea, while we experienced her exhibit.  It wasn’t until then, that I read the didactic, explaining her concept. “The Garden of Earthy Delights, a living interactive installation created for BMoCA, is envisioned as a space for people to relax, think, and interact.”  The receptionist, then gave each one of us a cup of hot water, which was handmade and fired and a low firing temperature.  We then picked from a wide variety of herbs, such as mint, verbena, thyme, sage, and rosemary, from small gardens, that were arranged in the center of the room.  After picking chocolate mint to make my tea, we sat together around a small table and handcrafted rugs.  As we sat drinking, we were welcome to eat fresh sprouts that were displayed in the center of the table.  

As I sat cross-legged on rugs made out of t-shirt of the artist’s friends and family, enjoying a beautiful Saturday, I seemed to forget that I was in an art setting.  I was in a environment, where I sat close to my two best friends, discussing our plans for the future, and truly enjoying one another’s company. It was interesting to be living, experiencing, and being apart of an artist’s work.  Le Courtois invites her viewer to an experience, where we are the subject, and our action of participating in the space is the work.  She allows the viewer to feel like a curial part to her piece.  After a some conversation and a cup of tea, we were all then invited to through our cups at the wall.  Knowing before, we were allowed to do this, I was plotting out where I would make my mark, and when I would do it.  When it was finally my turn to through my cup, two people walked into the exhibit the probably way I initially did, confused and unaware of the artist’s concept.  When I through my cup, the two looked at me, as if I was not supposed to do that, and then had uncontrollable laughter, when my two friends followed up with cups shattering at the wall.  Even though I saw the evidence of previous people’s shattered cups, the act of throwing an object, made by the artist, at a museum wall, was an uncomfortable feeling. I had a feeling of rebellion and adrenaline, but at the same time I felt empowered to leave my mark on the wall, and be apart of Le Courtois’ piece.

After throwing my cup, I had a strange feeling in my stomach.  I had come to a realization, that our experience with one another in that particular space, was over.  I could not drink another cup of tea, because my cup was broken, and I could not through another cup, because I had already broken it.  Le Coutois “explores the processes of consumption, focusing on the repetitive aspects of food preparation, ceremonial food offerings, and the social implications of eating.” I find it interesting, that her exhibition showed me a beginning and an ending to the eating process, which most people in our society do no experience.  We generally eat our food very fast, we don’t see where it comes from, in contrast to Le Coutois’s exhibition, where we eat in-front of the growing produce.  Le Coutois’s piece allows the viewer to appreciate the eating process in a way, that is not just appreciating the taste, but rather the entirety of our understandings of eating our food.  Being someone who values a good meal, I was able to relate to this piece.  It also open my eyes to traditional ways of eating and social practices that go along with eating.  Such as, where and how we decide to sit to eat, or if we sit at all, and who we share this moments with.

After experiencing my afternoon teatime, I continued onto the rest of Le Courtois’ exhibition.  On the left-hand-side on the first room, sits a large bowl of living kombucha, which is “an effervescent tea-based beverage that is often consumed for its anecdotal health benefits or medicinal purposes. It is made by fermenting tea using a visible, solid mass of yeast and bacteria.”  Along the sides of the bowl, are large prints of the kombucha.  The prints look like zoomed in microscopic organic matter.  They are very beautiful, but it is difficult to tell what they are of, until you see the bowl of kombucha.

Other pieces I found interesting, where “Little Fat Kids,” which is a collection of twenty small figurines made from melted down candy, then casted into a mold. And “Pickles,” which is an installation of various objects, such as Barbie heads, teeth, and fake finger, that are placed in pickled jars and displayed on metal shelves.  Both of these pieces work the repetition and collection as a main part of the process. In “Little Fat Kids,” she collects candy to make small sculpture out of things we consume, and in “Pickle” she collects objects and places where we would want to consume, but the object are things we cannot eat.

In the nearby room, lays the “Venus of Consumption,”  which is a bright orange sculpture crocheted with silicone and filled with stuffing.  The sculpture is a direct response to our excessive, over-consumed, overweight society.  The figure lies there on its side, paralyzed by its weight.  It hard not to feel sympathy for this sad, pathetic figure.    Le Courtois addresses her concerned for our people, by placing a figure with such presence in the center of the room,  making almost impossible for the viewer to avoid it.  As you continue to walk around the exhibit, guest must walk between a suspended installation called, “Candy Curtain,” which are curtains made from bright colored candies displayed on either side of the room.  The bright colored curtains attack the viewer into the next room.

Vivian Le Courtois is an artist is had an interest in food and how humans consume it.  She takes into consideration all associations we have with food, such as our interactions and out participations, when thinking about what and how we eat things.  Le Courtois’ exhibition, Edible, allowed me to feel apart of an experience, as well as apart of one of her installations itself.  Le Courtois creates a since of community by eating and sharing thoughts, while interacting with her art.



2 Responses

  1. Shelby,
    you are lucky to have been present when the artist was serving tea! I too, was a little confused when I first entered the exhibit and saw the crushed cups sitting on the floor– I had no idea that I was supposed to interact in that way! I would have liked to hear a bit more of your own interpretations regarding the significance and conceptual meaning of Le Courtois’ works.
    Other than that, you have a well written paper.

  2. Shelbs! You do such a great job of describing your internal experiences of this exhibit’s environment. It was nice to also be able to contrast those emotions with more analytical descriptions of the artwork.

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