Exhibition at Museum Tinguely explores our sense of taste as a dimension of aesthetic perception
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Exhibition at Museum Tinguely explores our sense of taste as a dimension of aesthetic perception
Installation view with works by Tom Wesselmann, Still Life #3, 1962 (right); Pol Bury, Bratpfanne mit Eiern, 1972 (middle) © 2020 Museum Tinguely, Basel; photo: Gina Folly.

BASEL.- Does art taste sweet, sour, bitter, salty or even umami? What role does our sense of taste play as an artistic material and in our social interactions? Museum Tinguely continues its series on the human senses in the arts that began with Belle Haleine (2015) and Prière de toucher (2016). The group exhibition Amuse-bouche. The Taste of Art (February 19–May 17, 2020) presents artworks by some 45 international artists from the Baroque period to the present, all of which explore our sense of taste as a dimension of aesthetic perception. Breaking with the usual museum practice of appealing primarily to the sense of sight, the show offers a range of art-historical and phenomenological encounters with our sense of taste. Several of the works can be experienced in a participatory way and even sampled as part of our special tours, workshops and performances.

Taste: from sickly sweet to the bitter end
In traditional accounts of the senses, taste is predicated on direct physical contact. We perceive the world around us in all its diversity through the physical sensation of taste in the mouth and on the tongue. The concept and itinerary of the exhibition Amuse-bouche. The Taste of Art focuses on those basic tastes we can perceive with our sensory apparatus: sweet, sour, salty, bitter and umami—a term coined in 1908 by the Japanese chemist Kikunae Ikeda that is commonly translated into English as "savoury." The exhibition at Museum Tinguely poses a number of questions concerning various aspects of our gustatory experience: How do we perceive art made of edible materials and their specific nuances of taste? What happens when our mouth and tongue suddenly take centre stage in the art experience? Can artworks address the sense of taste even when the viewer has no direct physical contact with them? Can gustatory experiences be described and translated into pictures? Can flavour serve as a medium of artistic expression and creativity?

The show includes allegorical depictions of the sense of taste by Baroque masters, works by avant-garde artists of the early 20th century and exhibits from the 1960s and ’70s. The main focus is on a representative selection of paintings, photographs, sculptures, video works and installations from the past thirty years, all of which address the ingestion and tasting of food in a variety of ways. In these works, the artists use foodstuffs and natural materials to lend flavours different forms. Visitors therefore get to sample the edible plants in the Hortus Deliciarum, an installation- and performance-based project by the Portuguese artist Marisa Benjamim, as well as the vegetal essences of Tastescape, a project by the Swiss artist Claudia Vogel. Goosebump, a monumental participatory work made of gingerbread cookies by the Australian artist Elizabeth Willing, can also be tasted. Meanwhile, sauerkraut juice, here labelled Brine and Punishment, features in a large-scale installation by Slavs and Tatars, a Berlin-based artists’ collective. This sharp-tasting "power drink" provides a sensory experience that forms part of the artists’ philosophical engagement with the multiple meanings and interpretations of fermentation and the process of "going sour."

Current sociopolitical issues are also addressed in the various works that deal with the "taste of nature" or the "taste of foreignness." Art works and performance concepts like Contained Measures of a Kolanut by Otobong Nkanga (to see on 18 February 2020) open up a world of unknown, forgotten, new or naturalized flavours, which are often intricately bound up with personal and cultural identities as well as gustatory preferences. The Berlin-based Nigerian artist Emeka Ogboh is also interested in explosive sociopolitical subjects relating to the taste of foreignness, as in the new Basel edition of his on-going project Sufferhead Original, in which he asks the question: "Who’s afraid of black?"

The show features works by the artists Sonja Alhäuser, Farah Al Qasimi, Janine Antoni, Marisa Benjamim, Joseph Beuys, George Brecht, Pol Bury, Costantino Ciervo, Jan Davidsz. de Heem, Bea de Visser, Marcel Duchamp, Hans-Peter Feldmann, Urs Fischer, Fischli/Weiss, Karl Gerstner, Damien Hirst, Roelof Louw, Sarah Lucas, Opavivará!, Filippo Tommaso Marinetti, Cildo Meireles, Alexandra Meyer, Antonio Miralda-Dorothée Selz, Nicolas Momein, Anca Munteanu Rimnic, Otobong Nkanga, Emeka Ogboh, Dennis Oppenheim, Meret Oppenheim, Tobias Rehberger, Torbjørn Rødland, Dieter Roth, Roman Signer, Cindy Sherman, Shimabuku, Slavs and Tatars, Daniel Spoerri, Mladen Stilinović, Sam Taylor-Johnson, André Thomkins, Jorinde Voigt, Claudia Vogel, Andy Warhol, Tom Wesselmann, Elizabeth Willing, Erwin Wurm, Rémy Zaugg.

Curator of the exhibition: Annja Müller-Alsbach

*[1] Janine Antoni, Mortar and Pestle, 1999. C-print, 121.9 x 121.9 cm. © Janine Antoni. Courtesy of the artist and Luhring Augustine, New York. [2] Elizabeth Willing, Installation view of the interactive work Goosebump, 2011–ongoing. Pfeffernüsse (frosted gingerbread) and icing on a wall, dimensions variable. Courtesy of the artist and Tolarno Galleries Melbourne. © Elizabeth Willing and Tolarno Galleries Melbourne. Photo: Elizabeth Willing. [3] Tom Wesselmann, Still Life #3, 1962. Mixed media and collage on board, 76.2 x 76.2 cm. © The Estate of Tom Wesselmann/Licensed by 2020, ProLitteris, Zurich. Photo: Jeffrey Sturges. Courtesy Gagosian. [4] Jan Davidsz. de Heem, Fruchtstillleben mit gefülltem Weinglas (detail), 17th century. Oil on oak, 35 × 53 cm. Staatliche Kunsthalle, Karlsruhe. © bpk. / Staatliche Kunsthalle Karlsruhe / Annette Fischer / Heike Kohler. [5] Daniel Spoerri, Achtung Kunstwerk (Attention oeuvre d'art), 1968. Jar with pickled herring, glass, herring, paper, plastic, 12 x 7.5 cm. Vice-Versand edition, ex. no. 3. Centre Pompidou – Musée national d’art moderne – Centre de création industrielle, Paris. © 2020, ProLitteris, Zurich. Photo: Centre Pompidou, MNAM-CCI, Dist. RMN-Grand Palais/Georges Meguerditchian.

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