VITORIA-GASTEIZ.- ARTIUM, Basque Centre-Museum of Contemporary Art, presents the exhibition Power Food, by Miralda-FoodCultura (North Gallery, from June 4 to November 2), a singular, poetic look at the connections between food, energy and power, and a reflection on the links between nutrition, politics, medicine, science fiction and popular culture. Miralda, who now works mainly on FoodCultura, the project that he has created together with chef Montse Guillén, deals with multiple derivatives from the world of food, from its ritual associations with magic, healing and mythology, to iconographic spin-offs linked to popular imagery and consumer affairs, and others associated with marketing, industry and consumerism. To accompany the exhibition, a catalogue will be published describing how the exhibition was assembled and a number of different texts relating to the issues tackled by this project, as well as a programme of activities that includes films, talks and gastronomy. Power Food is a production by ARTIUM (Vitoria-Gasteiz) and Es Baluard of Palma de Mallorca, based on an idea of Miralda-FoodCultura (Barcelona), with the support of Fundación Kalitatea and Ministerio de Cultura and the help of Departamento de Agricultura, Basque Government.
In this exhibition, Miralda and FoodCultura have brought together videos, images and countless products and objects collected throughout the world in order to demonstrate that food has powers that transcend its purely nutritive function. To develop this idea, the artist has structured the exhibition in three different areas. The first deals with the ritual connections of food, a look at the recipes and products of long ago, well known for their curative, nutritive, energy-giving or magical powers, from ancestral potions and medicinal plants to the freeze-dried capsules to be found in pharmacies, herbalists and supermarkets. The second area is given over to contemporary associations with marketing strategies, the new food industry and consumer habits driving from these. Lastly, Miralda turns his attention to the iconographic associations of food through its presence in comics, toys, graphics, souvenirs, utensils and other memorabilia.
Based on this structure, the exhibition proposes, by way of example, an intercultural journey that highlights the relationships that have always existed between money and food everywhere, and the power it exerts at an economic level. Advertising, images of food and their containers, as well as the ways used to present them (which Miralda pays a great amount of attention, are a reflection of that economic power and also the power of food images. The design and graphical presentation of a food product have an influence both on its potential consumers
and on its taste and texture. Power Food points out how advertising has developed such a great deal since its beginnings, and an exhibition of posters, wrappings, advertising and objects evokes the past like distant flavours.
Miralda also highlights the intense relationship between politics, the control this implies, and food. This is the case of drugs and their subjection to legal controls, in spite of the fact that the barrier between these and foodstuffs is, on occasions, not so clear. This is the case of ephedrine, guarana and caffeine; or the issue of doping, which is the sacred food for some sportspersons and the subject strict persecution.
Contemporary and age-old aspects of food
This Catalonian artist does not avoid current issues like obesity, another consequence of the power of food and potential client of advertising and, once more, of politics. In the past, obesity had different historical, social and medical interpretations, in accordance with each culture, and continues to do so today. The relation is drawn between being overweight and aesthetics, with image and with the reflection of that image in the cinema and magazines. And at the opposite end of the spectrum, there are the diseases that accentuate social concerns about
alimentation, anorexia and bulimia.
And Miralda also draws our attention to the world of cuisine and popular medicine. Cooking is alchemy and the simple act of cooking a product involves brining about changes in its matter. The artist recalls that fire was the first scientific application to food, based on which the art of cooking has reached its current level of innovation. Science and research are closely linked to food and proof of this is, for example, the major development and dissemination of transgenic products.
For its part, popular medicine and, especially, Chinese medicine, are thousand-year-old sciences capable of extracting miraculous, esoteric and magical components from food, which, in this way, is given almost supernatural curative powers. As the exhibition shows, the age-old wisdom of witches, quacks, magicians and sorcerers was applied to plants and herbs. With the aid of their modern and industrial versions, individuals take elixirs and potions, follow organic nights, food supplements for vitamins and the super minerals, contemporary, energy or biological drinks, miraculous pills, after-party products, aphrodisiac or sacred foods, ointments and magical potions. All these come together in Power Food.
Miralda (Barcelona, 1942) first proposed the idea of the ceremonial aspects of food as a creative element, based on colour and symbolism, in Paris in the sixties, when he worked as a fashion photographer for Elle. It was in Paris that he created his first works, characterised by groups of little, white plastic soldiers. Later, in the United States, he worked on the public attitude to comestibles, such as in Wheat & Steak, in Kansas City.
Following his Honeymoon Project (which celebrates an imaginary wedding between the Statue of Liberty in New York and the Columbus Monument in Barcelona), he set up restaurants, together with the chef, Montse Guillén, in New York (El internacional) and in Miami River (Big Fish Mayaimi) and took a leading role in Expo 2000 in Hanover con with thel Food Pavilion. Today, Miralda lives between Barcelona and Miami, and dedicates his time to FoodCultura.
Set up in 2000 by Miralda and Montse Guillén as a museum without walls, FoodCultura aims to explore, preserve and disseminate food culture at an international level. Of special relevance among his extensive oeuvre is the project entitled Tastes and Tongues, based on research, collective participation and a reflection on the gastrocultural wealth of a number of different cities: Lima, Havana (IX Biennial), Buenos Aires, Sao Paulo (27th Biennial) and Mexico, among others.
FoodCultura was set up as an archive and non-profit private foundation, with two headquarters, one in Barcelona and the other in Miami, home of the FoodCultura Collections: objects, graphics, audiovisuals, books, music, popular language, documents and so on.