The Testimony of Food: Ideas and Food

Food begins with the sense of taste, but it does not end there. When thought serves as a go-between, it builds a bridge between humankind and food, and forms a multifarious relationship composed of psychology, physiology, sense of self, class, faith and values. People create food, and food has a social function: in this world founded on the cornerstone of culture, food is culture, and culture is the sum of many different customs, systems, thoughts, ethical teachings, rituals and human activities.

 

In Dream of the Red Chamber, Cao Xueqin wrote that banquets should be held on the New Year and birthdays, when celebrating promotion to high office, admiring flowers or reciting poetry, on outings, when welcoming or bidding farewell to guests, at weddings and funerals. The banquets at Daguan Park were emblematic of the affluence and harmony of the upper class in the early Qing dynasty, and they also intimated the untamable desires hidden in the human heart. Ultimately, the decadence of Daguan Park served as an allegory for the entire age, demonstrating that “feasting is tantamount to delighting in calamity.” When Balzac spoke of food, he pondered the relationship between people and food, its impact on human productivity and its ability to change human vitality. He felt that culinary habits expressed the special character of each age. Be it grains, alcohol or chocolate, he emphasized the social and material nature of food, particularly its expression in daily life and its entanglement with the human consciousness.

 

Food has always been an active participant in the human world. Food has its own unique language. It is visual, auditory, gustatory, olfactory, tactile. It conveys and corresponds, either directly or metaphorically, striking straight at the most delicate of ideas through the human senses. Through the channel of human thought, it allows us to resonate with all our senses, taking us through a limit-experience, a spiritual awakening. The magical power of food lies in the complexity of images it possesses, and these multiple images are its greatest area of abundance. “The Testimony of Food” attempts to practice the language, thought and symbols of food, and even to create or intuit a unique drama from it. And standing on such a foundation of ideas, this exhibition not only explores the technical level of food, its form or aesthetic expression, but also ruminates on and revisits humankind’s must fundamental desires, embarking on the ultimate pursuit of the cerebral/visceral, the rational/irrational in human life.

 

Curator: Jo Hsiao

Assistant Curator: Bohsin Chien