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The Artist's Restaurant: Taste and the Performative Still Life


The Artist's Restaurant: Taste and the Performative Still Life

Clintberg, Mark (2013) The Artist's Restaurant: Taste and the Performative Still Life. PhD thesis, Concordia University.

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This thesis examines twentieth and twenty-first century artworks that have taken the form of food service sites of varying scale, menu, clientele, and duration, ¬and it proposes an interpretation of artist’s restaurants as a contemporary extension of the historical still life genre – that they have become performative still lifes. Seventeenth-century Dutch still life images, particularly pronk or opulent still life, and humble breakfast pieces, are addressed as counterparts to the contemporary artist’s restaurant; Ancient Greek and Roman xenia, and sixteenth and seventeenth-century market stall images are also analyzed in relationship to these contemporary artworks. Also foundational for this thesis project are the relationship between aesthetic taste and gustatory taste as taken up in eighteenth-century philosophy, as well as nineteenth-century gastronomy and restaurant practices.
Still life has at times been denigrated in philosophy and art history as a lowly genre tied to bodily impulses of appetite that confuses gustatory taste and aesthetic taste. Still life images have also been investigated for their moral significance, as representations of commodities and social conditions, as rhetorical structures, and as displays of commensality and social relations around food. This thesis investigates these very qualities as motivating factors for contemporary artists who are reinventing the genre through edible, performative still lifes. The core qualities of the institution we today call “the restaurant” are investigated with particular emphasis on their utility in defining social relations around material things. These include proto-restaurants (inns and taverns,) quasi-restaurants (street stalls, cookshops and traiteurs), and the modern restaurant. The ten artist’s restaurants that provide the case studies for this thesis use food, décor, and architecture to present rhetorical structures of seduction and persuasion to their participants. In relation to discourses of public art, these artist’s restaurants mobilize the rhetoric of “the public” to give their projects an air of urgency and they develop economies of generosity to demonstrate an investment in the well being of communities (ATSA, Spurse). Some case studies capitalize on the associations between traditional foods, ethnic and social identity, and commodities: to create forms of auto-ethnography (Rirkrit Tiravanija); to present hybrid identities (Karen Tam); to destabilize binaries of identity and policies of multiculturalism in the wake of colonialism (Carsten Höller, Peter Morin); and to confuse connections between social class and aesthetic taste (Daniel Spoerri, Dean Baldwin). Additionally artist’s restaurants that present ambiguous, difficult to identify foods are discussed in relation to the sublime, which is a form of experience that destabilizes the human subject, and to queer aesthetics, which celebrates ambiguity (Queer Food for Love, elBulli).
Still lifes that include food often describe a cumulative moment when the ingredients for a noble feast or a frugal meal come together on the table. Artists continue to explore the arrested instant before dining commences, as well as its aftermath while this thesis argues that artists’ restaurants also set in motion a new kind of performative still life, where the aesthetic qualities, physical space, social relations, and political context of the restaurant are folded into the very taste of the artwork itself.

Divisions:Concordia University > Faculty of Fine Arts > Art History
Item Type:Thesis (PhD)
Authors:Clintberg, Mark
Institution:Concordia University
Degree Name:Ph. D.
Program:Art History
Date:15 September 2013
Thesis Supervisor(s):Sloan, Johanne
ID Code:977933
Deposited On:21 Nov 2013 19:08
Last Modified:18 Jan 2018 17:45
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