Site and Situation: (Not) At Home

List of Illustrations:

Fig. 1. Giedrė Derenčienė, (2019), ‘Kriminalistikos instektoriaus kambarys’, 27/06/2019-27/07/2019. Available at https://antikvarodvaras.lt/kriminalistikos-inspektoriaus-kambarys (Accessed at: 22 October 2019)

Fig. 2 . Bob Baker. Available at: https://www.routledgeperformancearchive.com/multimedia/video/kitchen-show

(Accessed at: 3 November 2019).

Fig. 3 . Bondell Cunnings. Available at: https://www.google.com/search?q=blondel+cunnings&rlz=1C1CHBF_en-GBGB719GB719&sxsrf=ACYBGNT5O762pL-I7y1w2dCKxC0sJfYmVQ:1572802276269&tbm=isch&source=iu&ictx=1&fir=tRJ6-7hmnnno9M%253A%252CvZtCr1ofAdal_M%252C_&vet=1&usg=AI4_-kT1DDNGq9s_k08HgTIROrZWadti2A&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwi_g-qHyc7lAhWDThUIHaVHBekQ9QEwBHoECAkQDA#imgrc=tRJ6-7hmnnno9M:&vet=1

(Accessed at: 3 November 2019).

The article ‘Cooking Up the Self’ by Lesley Ferris and an essay by Katy Deepwell examine how the site and situation of art has been altered during the decades from exhibiting art in galleries and museums to the idea to put ‘a house on display’ (Deepweel, 2012) to make a show house. The concept of the ‘expanded field’ for exibiting art (sculpture or installation) is discussed in the essay in contrast with ‘old-fashioned idea that artworks can only be found in museums and galleries’ (Deepweel, 2012).

In comparison in the article ‘Cooking Up the Self’ by Lesley Ferris and the essay by Katy Deepwell they both agree that there is no boundaries between art and personal life, between public and private, that home (stately houses) becomes not only a gallery and a museum, but the arena of theatre. In generally, it is “site-specific”, authentic site or dislocation and displacement’ (Deepweel, 2012) with the endless ideas and creativity.

An installation on a mysteriously narrative story about the fictitious criminalistics inspector in an abandoned antigue stately house in Vilnius (Derenčienė, 2019) can be an example of installation based in an expanded zone out of the gallery space (see Fig. 1).

Fig. 1. Giedrė Derenčienė, (2019), ‘Kriminalistikos instektoriaus kambarys’, 27/06/2019-27/07/2019. Available at https://antikvarodvaras.lt/kriminalistikos-inspektoriaus-kambarys

Two different stories in the kitchen by two different women artists such as Bobby Baker’s ‘Kitchen Show’ (1991) and Blondel Cummings’ ‘Chicken Soup’ (1988) are introduced and analysed in the article ‘Cooking up the self: Bobby Baker and Blondell Cummings ‘’do’’ the kitchen’ by Lesley Ferris. The writer pays more attention to compare and describe performances in 1991 and 1988.

The purpose of the article is to focus on how the women’s works are in the relationship with the kitchen as an arena for their performance as a personal experience.

Since a kitchen has been essentially women’s arena with their daily routines, Bobby Baker and Blondell Cummings introduce themselves in the kitchen both as performers and acting in the performance. Both stories are autobiographical and based on their own experiences.

During the centuries only men had their priviledge to act and women roles appeared only in 16th century. Woman were thought not suitable to be actresses because of not being able to separate themselves from the process of acting. In the contrary to this, Bobby Baker starts the performance – comedy at her own kitchen reminding that she is a woman not a man, that she has the equal rights to men.

Her kitchen is an open space to the audience and she acts herself and creates herself here and now. During her show Baker decorates her body with kitchen objects and her body serves as a piece of art. Being tired and desperate from the endless routine in the kitchen she would throw a ripe pear rather then hurt someone.

The idea of a performance in is that women have been imprisoned in never-ending cooking rituals and the act of serving to feed others. A red lipstick on her lips just to mark a place to get food. ‘Baker plays on the duality here – she is both the feeder and the one who feeds’ (Ferris, 2014, p.198). In this case she also plays on her childhood memory on a mother with her breast feeding baby.

At the end of her show, ‘laced with irony and humor’ (Ferris, 2014, p. 201), Baker stands on a cake tray herself decorated as a cake, as a woman on the pedestal idealised by men as to be a perfect creature to care about four corners of the house. At the moment when her daughter plays the piano, Bobby Baker becomes both a performer and a viewer.

Fig. 2 . Bob Baker. Available at: https://www.routledgeperformancearchive.com/multimedia/video/kitchen-show

Fig. 3 . Bondell Cunnings. Available at: https://www.google.com/search?q=blondel+cunnings&rlz=1C1CHBF_en-GBGB719GB719&sxsrf=ACYBGNT5O762pL-I7y1w2dCKxC0sJfYmVQ:1572802276269&tbm=isch&source=iu&ictx=1&fir=tRJ6-7hmnnno9M%253A%252CvZtCr1ofAdal_M%252C_&vet=1&usg=AI4_-kT1DDNGq9s_k08HgTIROrZWadti2A&sa=X&ved=2ahUKEwi_g-qHyc7lAhWDThUIHaVHBekQ9QEwBHoECAkQDA#imgrc=tRJ6-7hmnnno9M:&vet=1

An African American artist Blondell Cummings’ performance ‘Chicken Soup’ (1988) plays on her family memories from the past up to now. Rituals and ceremonies are used as sources to express collective memory that links ‘one’s past to one’s present’ (Ferris, 2014, p. 205).

Cummings sets the action of her performance ‘Chicken Soup’ in the kitchen atmosphere and acts herself with the body language that tells about the monotonous cyclical work in the kitchen when the body never rests, about the multitasking woman from generation to generation, about the life in the kitchen is always the same. Her body talks, swings, dances, communicates, conveys meanings, signs, codes. Her family history as the collective memory is connected via the domestic area in the kitchen to the performance and herself as an artist.

Both artists introduce her bodies as a piece of art in the performance. In contrast to Baker, Cummings ‘is talking not only with the audience but with the women of her past’, since Bobby Baker acts the comedy for the limited audience in the moment.

Cummings’ performance is filmed to be accessible to a large audience and to capture every single movement, gesture, miming as a very important and significant piece of her acting, since Bobby Baker acts here and now in her own kitchen. Baker’s performance is filled with self-irony and humor, meanwhile Cummings convey psychological aspects of women’s history from the past.

Both Baker and Cummings’ personal life becomes public in the performing at the kitchen space. They convey the idea of a women’s position in society. Women’s private life is not the fact of religion nor culture, but a collective memory of feminism.

In conclusion, contemporary art is to be distinctive to find undiscovered places for not boring art. Both articles analyses the question of a display, what is on a display. The answer is given that each physical intervention in a space which creates an installation or a performance is about to see the space differently, experience it by someone walking through the space.

References

Cottell, F. And Deepwell, K. (2012) House: from Display to BACK to FRONT. London: KT Press, pp. 9-23

Ferris, L. (2016) ‘Cooking up the self: Bobby Bker and Blondell Cummings ‘’do’’ the kitchen’, in Smith, S. and Watson, J. (ed.) Interfaces: Women, Autobiography, Image, Performance. University of Michigan Press, pp.186-210.

John Tomlinson

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