Feast For Bush by Lauren Garfinkel: Eight Years of History, Course by Course
Feast For Bush is a series of dishes by Lauren Garfinkel to commemorate the eight years of George W. Bush's presidency, a "legacy that couldn’t possibly fit onto one plate." It's a "feast" of twelve courses in which seemingly innocuous plates of food are transformed into nightmare-scapes examining some of the darkest chapters of the 2000s, including Potatoes Abu Ghraib, Trout a la Waterboard, Heck of a Job Brownie, and Shoe Fly Pie. Chronologically, course by successive course, history unfolds. They're "edible" in that they're sculptural pieces built from food, but the subject matters, at times traumatic, grotesque, and unsavory, make them decidedly inedible. Curious, we just had to get in touch with Lauren Garfinkel to find out what she was thinking.
EMD: Can you tell us a little about yourself, and about your project?
Lauren Garfinkel: I went to the Rhode Island School of Design for Fashion (graduated '91) and currently work in the field. My projects in school were always on the costume/conceptual end.
After college, I continued making art, trying to present undesirable things fashionable. There was a Victorian series including a chair for a humpback and bloody china. After that, I had the idea of taking macabre themes and making them attractive, delicious and fun, which spawned a small series called "fruitcake hell." Included were gingerbread roadkill and death by chocolate.
After that, I didn't make much art, but always thought about food as a medium and have many a sketchbook with all my harebrained ideas.
So why politics?
I've been an avid follower of American politics for years. During the younger Bush years, the Sunday morning round-tables were a source of comfort and reassurance from rational thinkers on the left and right, mostly journalists, giving honest assessments of politicians, their motivations, and of a very confusing and troubling time. I am fascinated by politics.
I started thinking about "Feast for Bush" during Katrina, when we all witnessed the President encouraging FEMA Director Michael Brown: "Brownie, you're doing a heck of a job." And that's when I knew I was going to do a whole series.
Where did the ideas come from?
Some came easier than others, and the list just grew. Some were gimmes, like the Condoleezza Rice Balls and the Scooter Libby Pies. Some were more calculated. The torture pieces were very emotional to make. I think what was so disturbing about the Potatoes Abu Ghraib, was how simple it was. Just stencils and breadcrumbs and nutmeg. Mashed potatoes are our comfort food, and this message was and still is very difficult to swallow.
Then of course, there were the ones that were just a guilt-free pleasure to make. The "Mission Accomplished Fig Newton" with George W. Bush action figure was a giddy treat. And the "Dick Cheney Birdshot" salad was a foray into gourmet ingredients (which were mostly pungent and not awesome tasting). I loved imagining the birds all around the Vice President as he accidentally shot his friend in the face.
You call them "edible keepsakes," but are they meant to be consumed? Have you eaten the dishes or served them to others?
I haven't eaten any of the dishes or served them. In theory, the dishes are meant to be eaten, as a form of acceptance and resignation that these people and events depicted are part of our collective history.
The reason I haven't eaten the dishes is that I'm using the materials to create sculptures of sorts, and it might be a little barbaric of me to eat my own sculpture, unless it was a performance piece. I'm sure I'd have no problem snacking on a Scooter Libby Pie or eating a piece of Baba Rumsfeld or the Dick Cheney Salad. But it's hard to imagine getting real pleasure out of consuming a diorama of a prisoner at Guantanamo, no matter how delicious or well prepared the meal is. hat would be more a form of penance, which is a genuine pretense of the project.
To me, the feast is an exploration of the messages that we receive or are fed, and of the people that feed us. In much of our lives, "you are what you eat" is applicable. We elect our leaders based on the messages that they present. But we must also live with the consequences and endure the messages that follow. in that sense "you are what you are fed" is the driving force of "Feast for Bush."
Through the project, what sort of personal conclusions have you reached? By posting these online, does it mean that the process has run its course?
Through the execution of these dishes, I've discovered, first, that it is safe to critique the past. There was a feeling of helplessness that pervaded in those years, and a lingering resentment has followed. I realized, that in spite of everything, I don't despise George W. Bush personally. I simply condemn his appointments, his policies and his decisions. Finally, I recognize that to engage in politics is to succumb to some form of manipulation, no matter who's side you're on.
There are many more people and incidents of intrigue from the George W. Bush tenure, and I continue to research and make plans for them. Posting the dishes thus far was about achieving a goal, and a desire to simply share what I've been creating and thinking about for the better part of the last year.
I'm working on a cookbook for the feast, but have no specific plans beyond that at the moment. Soon, I look forward to considering current figures and happenings, and getting involved in discussions through this curious format.
Earlier on Eat Me Daily
- Food Art: 'Eat the Art' Group Exhibit at BHCC in Boston
- Chocolate-Covered Toy Soldiers by Stephen J Shanabrook [food art]
- The Disquieting Food Art of Stephen J Shanabrook
- Chocolate Waterboarding by Stephen J Shanabrook
- Melting Chocolate Easter Bunnies by Momoyo Torimitsu [food art]
- A Different Kind of Slow Food at the 'Go Slow Cafe' in 'Pioneers of Change' on Governors Island