Such Stuff at the Minories : I forgot to remember taste and smell
I've been working with Trish Mansfield- Devine on the press materials for the Such Stuff show in October. She has spotted that I've got really contradictory ambitions for this show. Even though visual art is rooted so firmly in the object, I strongly hope for it to be an event rather than a static collection of things, for it to live more in memory than in the artifacts that remain afterwards.
But I had a lesson in how possible that is when I had one of the most engaging and reflective afternoons of my life at The Fat Duck restaurant. A proper warm welcome just like you only get with people that have very little to prove. Fourteen courses - each one a tiny, funny, intense unsettling haiku that meant we spent a lot of thoughtful time with our eyes shut. Taste and smell - the two most wired senses we have and, according to the staff nurse in the hospital when my dad was dying, the last ones to shut down just after hearing. I wish I'd had some of the honeysuckle from the garden of our tiny, cramped flat in Manor Park or the smell of cider and creosote from our two week summer holidays in Devon to accompany the quiet story I whispered to him about what an amazing dad he was, as he died with such slow grace.
With some notable exceptions visual art consistently undervalues these two important, visceral and emotionally wired senses. This is because smell and taste are very diffficult turn into a static gallery show that can stay up for the routine 6 weeks. Taste and smell are also difficult for galleries to sell to people. Smell and taste are also the most democratic of senses. As long as you pay proper attention to them they need the least foreplay and education and best of all they don't demand a lot of babble and squeak to be written about them. Either you like it or you don't, either it tastes good or it doesn't. Either you fancy that person or you don't. I know you can manipulate these senses like any other but somehow we usually know when food has been treated with disrespect, just like we know when a place or a person smells unwholesome.