Tuesday, November 24, 2009

Meat Architecture

Jan Fabre's artworks refer back to the Netherlands vanitas tradition; he's obsessed with those perennial Northern European themes of life, death, metamorphosis, and the physicality of corporeal existence. In other words he covers wire mesh and Zimmer frames and skulls with shiny green scarab wings,* and in 2000 he wrapped smoked ham around the columns of Ghent University. In other other words he's the morbid sensationalist Belgian artist who's not Wim Delvoye, and don't get them mixed up, or they will weep bitter salty tears into their 9% Trappist beers. This is not good for the flavour. Salty tears are better with a glass of Bamberg Rauchbier, or at a pinch with a Gose Ohne Bedenken. But I digress.

Imagine my delight, then, when the Great Google informed me that Fabre and a team of assistants once created an exhibition called Temples of Meat at the Ghent City Museum of Art, including "a coat made of steaks and a tent of bacon with sleeping bags of steak". DISTURBING IMAGERY POSSIBILITY, I thought, before passing out from hyperventilation. Complete with suitably wankerish quotes from Fabre: "Meat is a very erotic material. A lot of my work is about the cult of decay and death."

But further inquiry [i.e. scouring the Intertubes for disturbing pictures] revealed that though there are many references to this story -- including a number of outraged vegetarian websites -- they all link back to the original Ananova.com story (sometimes confounding it with the earlier Ghent University ham-wrapping episode). Ananova's source in turn is the Belgian tabloid newspaper De Morgen. And IT IS A COVER-UP the Ghent Art Museum website only mentions Fabre's 2003 retrospective!

I am shocked, shocked! that a tabloid newspaper would make up a story of the "modern artists are pretentious poseurs who are stringing us all along for a ride" genre.

I am also shocked that an artist might work in diverse media -- beetle wings, bronze, ball-point pen, rotting vegetables (when he's not designing for the theatre or dance) -- but you wrap ham around ONE LITTLE UNIVERSITY and for ever after in the minds of the world you are "that guy who wraps ham around things".

* Somewhere in South-East Asia there is an entire industry devoted to farming scarab beetles so that their wing-covers can be exported to supply the green shiny needs of the Western world. Under humane conditions, I hope; none of this battery-beetle business. Such are the wonders of globalisation. There are possibilities here for a novel, involving a humble Malayan beetle-farmer who strikes up an e-mail correspondence with a customer in Belgium... which slowly blossoms into long-distance love... and then they both die after catching a rare fungal disease.

22 comments:

Substance McGravitas said...

they will weep bitter salty tears
into their 9% Trappist beers
and will moan somethings awfuls
when next they eat waffles

ckc (not kc) said...

...gasp!! that "thing" is EATING that pussy!!!

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

yeah, well he can complain about being art-cast to Christo, I guess.

merc said...

I hear there is a land where they battery farm Kiwi for the sandy battlefields of Washington.
Apparently they will do anything for a beetle.

fish said...

While we can't prove the existence of steak sleeping bags, I can vouch for the existence of a ham bed.

However sleeping in it requires a hamhock cush.

fish said...

And I just have to say I love this quote:

Despite his training in an Italian art school, he said he had rejected Prosciutto — "It would have been pompous." He also shelved an idea to do ham and eggs as "too pretentious, too thought out."

Smut Clyde said...

Cavallaro says his cheese period ended two years ago, after he had sprayed five tons of pepper jack over a vacant house in Powell, Wyo.

"I was cloaking myself in cheese. I had started getting comfortable," he explained. "I always need new boundaries."


Don't you wish you had the opportunity to say that?

ckc (not kc) said...

...they both die after catching a rare fungal disease

I'm a sucker for a happy ending.

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

a hamhock cush.

the feeshy shout out makes me happy.

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

Riddled is like the twisted, unwholesome intersection of Sadly, No! and 3Bulls!

I really feel at home here. Expect Zardoz. And brain-nomming.

zombie rotten mcdonald said...

as well as alarming levels of stupidly obscure pop-culture references. And Blue Oyster Cult, if deemed necessary...

inesessn. And oyster boys, swimming now, to save me from the death like creature.....

ckc (not kc) said...

I blame the apparent obscurity on premature senility - I avoid the question of whose.

Another Kiwi said...

Riddled is like the twisted, unwholesome intersection of Sadly, No! and 3Bulls!
Aw shucks Zomb that's very kind of you.You big lug
*punches arm*
*picks up arm*
*gets out Duct tape*

mikey said...

**SIGH**

Y'know, man, if I had it all to do over again, I'd want to be known as that guy who wraps ham around things.

Is there any vodka left?

Substance McGravitas said...

Ham wrapper vs. ham inserter: THE BATTLE BEGINS.

M. Bouffant said...

No battle, you wrap it in bacon & insert it in the ham.

fish said...

Battle wrap?

Jennifer said...

Don't you wish you had the opportunity to say that?

I think I have...

Battle wrap?

:)

ifthethunderdontgetya™³²®© said...

I find this celebration of kittycide hard to take.
~

tigris said...

Yes, you know you'll never be a serious art critic when your first response is, "aw, lookit the poor ickle kitty."

Smut Clyde said...

Julia deVille's jewelry sometimes elicits strong reactions.

Smut Clyde said...

I really feel at home here. Expect Zardoz. And brain-nomming.

At some point we will write a post that mentions Google and John Holbo from Crooked Timber. That should attract a better class of visitor.