Viviane Le Courtois: Edible?–Lauren Anderson

Viviane Le Courtois: Edible? Exhibition Review by Lauren Anderson

On March 10, 2012 I went to the Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art to see the exhibition by Viviane Le Courtois titled, Edible?  I had never heard of the artist and had no idea what to expect from the exhibition, but based on her name, I assumed she was French.  As I walked into the first gallery, on my left I saw pallets of plants, and on my right a dirty wall and shards of terra cotta.  There were six pallets and on top of them were round black canvas bags filled with small green plants.  Above the plants were hanging lights that looked like the kind of lights that are used in a photo shoot. In between the mats were three woven rugs with rock pedestals in the middle of them and then woven baskets on top of them.  My first impression was that none of this was very interesting to look at or aesthetically appealing.  I also did not really know what to do with myself.  However, this dilemma was solved when the docent told me to grab a terra cotta cup and fill it with leaves from the first palette.  She would then give me water so make tea with the leaves.  I was supposed to drink the tea on the woven mats and then when finished, throw the cup at the wall.  This all seemed very strange to me, but I decided to go along with it and see what would happen.  I picked some various kinds of mints, lavenders, and thymes and put them in my cup.  I tried to go for varieties that I had not heard of so that I could continue with my theme of just going for it and trying something new.  Then I got my hot water and sat down on the mat.  There was a period of time I needed to wait to for the tea to steep, but after a while I started to feel silly and got impatient and began to drink it.  The combination of the leaves getting in my mouth and the terra cotta on my lips was overall very unpleasant, but I definitely got an earthy feel from all of it.  I got the feel that this method of drinking tea might have been how people drank it long ago.  However, I did not care for the experience and was glad when I finished the tea.  I then got up and threw the cup as hard as I could at wall.  It left a mark.  That was definitely the most satisfying part of the experience; I could not wait to get rid of that tea. After that I decided to go and read what was on the wall about the work, and find out its title.  It was called The Garden of Earthly Delights, but the only delight I got from it was throwing the cup at the wall.  The decision to have people throw the clay pots is also somewhat strange because Le Courtois seemed to be trying to create a peaceful environment, but then she has people disrupting that environment by breaking pots every few minutes. This piece was inspired by how people interact and form into small groups at opening receptions.  People are supposed to hang out, interact, and contemplate.  Because of this interactive quality, the piece is very different for everyone that experiences it based on the people who are there at the time.  The piece is based on sustainable ways of producing art, food, and handmade objects, and is supposed to be about .  However, piece focused on concept more and lacked visual appeal.  While sometimes concept can be enough, I did not find Le Courtois’ concept innovative enough to rely on that alone.

I enjoyed the rest of the exhibition much more than the first gallery.  This gallery showed a retrospective of her work years past that had to do with food.  Most of this work was much more visually appealing and engaging while still having a strong concept behind.  One of my favorite works from this gallery was titled, Venus of Consumption.  This I immediately noticed this piece when I walked into the part of the gallery it was displayed in.    The piece is a sculpture a morbidly obese woman, splayed our on a platform.  The sculpture is covered in bright orange yarn, which in my opinion accentuates how fat the figure looks.  Without reading the title, the sex of the statue is somewhat ambiguous.  However, know the figure is supposed to be Venus, is a clear reference to the representations of Venus throughout Art History.  However, this Venus is not about fertility, beauty, or love like a tradition Venus.  Instead, this Venus is something a bit darker, consumption, or in this case, over-consumption.  This seems to be a not so subtle commentary on not only the growing problem of obesity, but also about the excessive consumption of goods that our country cannot seem to control.  To me this piece says that more is not better, but instead makes you tired, fat, and lazy. Another piece that comments on obesity in our society is titled Little Fat Kids.  The obvious interpretation of this piece is that it is commenting on the growing problem of obesity in children.  However, I think that it is also commenting on how people sometimes accept chubby children as being cute when in reality they have a serious health problem.  It is easy to think of these statues as cute.  They are colorful little candy sculptures with round bellies and they do not look like real humans

After I had been through the entire exhibition, I came back to the first gallery and very few people were left.  Ms. Le Courtois was tending to some of the plants but was otherwise unoccupied, so I decided to take the opportunity to speak with her and ask her a question.  I asked her, “Does your work always deal with food? And what is it about food that you are interested in?”  While she was hard to understand through her thick French accent, the basics of what she told me were that no, her work is not always about food but it is about everyday life, and food is a part of that.  I appreciate that Le Courtois explores themes of everyday life and does so in unique ways, however I definitely think that she is more successful some times than others.  In my opinion, her works that have more visual appeal are much more successful.  I know that I enjoy art because of its visual nature.  If something is not visually interesting to look at, I do not know if I see the point in making something physical; if it is all about the idea then I think writing that idea down on a piece of paper would accomplish the same goal.

4 Responses

  1. I liked reading your paper because I think that we had very similar experiences but when writing my paper i took a very different approach. Your paper was very candid seeing as you talked a lot about your actual experience and your take away from the exhibit. The art is very important but all that would really would matter is what you take from the art. I too felt a little awkward and did not really know what to do. I also did not participate in many of the activities that the exhibit had set forth but it was interesting. I like reading your paper, it was different than some of the others.

  2. I have to say I am very jealous that you actually got to meet her. I would have love to have gotten to talk to her. Although I do understand where you are coming from and I do enjoy reading your paper, I have to say I disagree. Art is meant to be visually pleasing, but sometimes that does not always get the point across. Sometimes art needs to be disturbing in order for the artist to get their point across to the audience. I do not think that could necessarily be accomplished the same way by writing it down. It is all about the experience.

  3. Lauren, What an experience you had! Dare I express my jealousy? I love interactive artwork. How grounded and rustic you must have felt drinking from terracotta, chewing herbal leaves, and throwing your cup. How Primal! The Garden of Earthly Delights is such a rich title . Bosch perhaps painted as a devotee to his faith. I believe this painting touches on the ignorance and bliss experienced by Adam and Eve in Eden, which is delightful to revel in and fantasize about. Presumably they had everything that they needed, but according to that book … the Bible… The simplicity of filling your heart with every desire but the forbidden is not enough. How do you think this is reflected in the simple act of drinking tea? In some cultures, tea drinking can lead to enlightenment, the most complex simple thing ever to manifest. Your experience seemed unique. It is amazing how awkward the simple act of drinking tea in that setting seemed to make you question your actions. I like visual art work also. It does little for me to approach mentally robust art work with a pursuit parallel to that of Indiana Jones; striving to crack its code and discover its mysteries. I much rather enjoy being drawn in then caught by the artwork, where it gently exposes it’s subtleties and depths to me

  4. Lauren- I enjoy how personable you made this paper. Reading this, I feel that I was walking through the exhibition with you experiencing these works first hand. I am fascinated by how interactive this exhibit was and the fact that something that looked so simple ended up having you making tea and shattering the cup! Its also neat that you say her retrospective was not only visually appealing but had great concepts behind each work. Reading this paper really makes me want to see the show and further investigate the artist. It is also so great that you got to meet the artist and question her about the inspiration behind her subject matter. Great Job!!

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: