Miralda Reminds the World of the Ritual Meaning of Food
This eccentric character archives culinary stories, paraphernalia and traditions so that the globalized world of food doesn’t forget them.
“A market and a stomach, an archive and a mouth, a center of exchange and a brain, a laboratory and a tongue” is how the voluptuous concept of Food Cultura is described, an invention and creation of Catalan artist Miralda. But all that we can associate with the behavior of food – such as its natural tendency to spill over, drop, go off – or its ceremonial and symbolic character, is part of the “museum” of Food Cultura, which he have put in inverted commas because although it is a so-called museum, it has no walls to contain the immense collection that it ephemerally holds.
Miralda launched Food Cultura in the late 1960s as an artistic exploration into the ceremonial character and the anthropological contents of food. Today it has come such a long way that it is difficult to differentiate between the ephemeral and the work/product of the museum; his work as an a artist has been burned into the collective memory as a series of experiences, as he calls them and the rest is inside enormous glass cases that contain teapots, phallic cylinders, sauces, recipes, the names of local foods, grandma’s recipes, information about diet, misery and water and, above all, of edible paradoxes that give us and take away our identity and tradition.
Nobody such as he has asked questions about diet with such a prominent and colorful voice. The transformation that has taken place over the last 50 years regarding diet that has taken place in our way of eating is documented in his projects and installations, and which are part of the collection of the Food Cultura museum; but that is not to say that telling the story of culinary homogenization makes the museum depressing or sad. It is also full of biology and life, of ritual reverence and of organic experiences that feed the spirit of whoever looks at them.
I am interested in showing the links between all of these themes. Things such as the problem of wars and violence generated by the import or export of food, hunger, and which exist because there is an interest in it continuing, genetic manipulation or why some products are sold and others are not. I want this project to be critical but without ceasing to be fun. I still think that one should have a good time.
And having a good time appears to be his ‘offering’ to the public. In 1984, for example, Miralda presented Santa Comida in MACBA: an installation inspired by the offerings of food to the Orisha gods of the Yoruba religion. There were santería percussionists, dance and altars on which food was venerated as if it were a saint itself. Also during that decade he created the extraordinary El internacional restaurant in New York, described as “the first restaurant of postmodernist art,” which had its own newspaper and a monumental aquarium that divided up themed rooms. Then, in 1992, he officiated a wedding between the Statue of Liberty and the monument to Christopher Columbus as a way of ‘ritualizing’ the voluptuous hybridization of those two cultures.
Miralda has lived in Miami since 1994 and from there he continues to weave the threads of Food Cultura which, thanks to its lack of containing walls, can house these wonderful anecdotes that have awoken the spirits of ritual cuisine and focused a spotlight on the globalization of diet. Always, of course, with a fun angle that, like food itself, is always in process, change and degradation.
This fall, Miralda, along with Cuban collective Los Carpinteros, Marinella Senatore, Miami-based artists and collectives, will take part of the Opening Processional Performance directed by Claire Tancons in collaboration with Gia Wolff and Arto Lindsay. The processional performance will remix sounds from various musical traditions, rev up patterns of improvisation and revamp culinary practices throughout the Faena District to celebrate the opening of the Faena Forum in Miami Beach.
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