'Steak Filter v0' by Noah Feehan/AKA

We run across a lot of food art in the course of our day, but Noah Feehan's video art piece "Steak Filter v0" is unlike anything we've seen. In this visually abstract piece, a video signal is passed through a raw steak as it cooks, changing and deteriorating alongside the meat. We spoke with Feehan about his inspirations, process, and what it was like working with meat as a video component.

Eat Me Daily: So what exactly is going here?
Noah Feehan: Quite literally, I am plugging composite video into a big steak, which is then cooked. The video signal going through the steak is the image of the steak cooking. Gradually, the steak loses moisture and signal can no longer pass. This piece was a study for a performance series I might be doing at the Harvard Museum of Natural History this spring.

How will your performance series incorporate it?
I'm not entirely sure yet, but I will probably be doing this performance, cooking a steak filter, while the audience explores the rest of the works on display. The smell, and the amplified sound of the sputtering of the meat, will provide an interesting ambient counterpoint to the museum's usual fare of sterile, long-dead, never-changing objects. (There is no sound in some of the videos this time because I did not have the proper mic setup).

With this performance I'm trying to get at the reflexivity of live video — the taut line between the space and the image that results. It's possible to think of almost anything that mediates as a filter of some kind... sort of a "the-map-is-not-the-territory" territory.

In this system, the filtered image is recursively processed in a feedback loop, allowing minute perturbations to ripple and echo across the screen long after the original impulse has ended.

Part of my interest in video lies in its exploded body; the signal is a ghost that resonates and deforms, trapped in our waveguides: when the system powers down the image fades into incoherence, leaving no corpse behind. Steak Filter gives body to this infinite recursion, making it real; incarnate. With this corporeality comes mortality: as the meat sputters and pops, we watch the cascade of images until finally, the steak is done.

If "the signal is a ghost," is part of what you're capturing the last remaining life of the animal, right before its consumption? Its "last gasp" so to speak? Is the meat itself a ghost?
It's not particularly about the life/soul of the animal — meat is meat. For me, the ghost I mention is the fissure between the physical and virtual realms involved in the performance — a real space is abstracted, ghosted, into a temporal phenomenon (the video signal) that we see as a series of transient images onscreen. There's no way to "catch" this live signal, but you can see its traces.

Was there a reason to use beef over other meats?
It was very important for this project not to be wasteful, both out of respect for the medium and due to financial limitations - I asked a couple butchers for spoiled/unwanted steaks, but nobody would provide any. Often, a title is one of the first elements I'll start with when making a piece, and "Steak Filter" has a compelling ring to it. Also, I don't really eat pork, and I was worried chicken or fish would not present an easily-readable image onscreen.

Have you worked with food before?
I have done a few poorly-documented projects in the past, like signing my name using a pen that dispenses a rapidly-solidifying "gummi" mix. I am working on a piece now that involves custom-molded chocolate circuitry, although it is too soon to tell if that idea will bear fruit.

Finally, how did it taste?
It was delicious. I might experiment with different marinades, though, to see their effect on the image and palette. There is something special, though, to the simplicity of the current setup.

Video: Steak Filter v0

—Raphael Brion

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