The Crêpe, the Theorist, the Chef and the Volunteer
Statement of Purpose
Nicole Peyrafitte, Independent Artist
Belle Gironda, Ph.D., University at Albany
Alluquere Roseanne Stone, in her essay, “Will the Real Body Stand Up?” notes that “much of the work of cyberspace researchers… assumes that the human body is ‘meat’-obsolete, as soon as consciousness itself can be uploaded in to network. The discourse of the visionary virtual world builders is rife with images of imaginal bodies, freed from the constraints that flesh imposes. Cyberspace developers foresee a time when they will be able to forget about the body….” In our proposed performance, food, cooking and eating stand for the re-inscription of the tangible body into digital networks of information flow, in a way that highlights some less-remarked aspects of various feedback loops, and points to some real consequences, both for individual bodies and for populations.
In The Origin of Table Manners, Claude Lévi Strauss writes, “Adapting itself to the exigencies of the body, and determined in its modes by the way man’s insertion in nature operates in different parts of the world, placed then between nature and culture, cooking represents their necessary articulation. It partakes of both domains, and projects this duality on each of its manifestations.” Our performance inserts cooking into the information economy so that it appears to straddle, the supposed nature/culture divide while actually undoing that dichotomy, which we know to be false. When commenting on Brillat-Savarin’s, Physiology of Taste, Roland Barthes suggests that the cosmogeny of the culinary is one that reflects “the great myth, operative today, more than ever, among a technological humanity: the excellence of the tool (as opposed to the machine), the preeminence of the artisanal over the industrial, in a word the nostalgia for the Natural.”
The Chef, (unlike “the cook”, who, in some formulations, might present as the earthy, nurturing provider of sustenance), is, in this performance, exemplar of ‘expertise’ and the power of those few who are truly “in the know” in an information economy. The Chef is the primary useful information source for the Volunteer, who must attempt to learn to make a crêpe by following the Chef, who is present (on the other side of the partition), but visible only via live video feed on the computer screen. The Chef has no regard for the ‘newbie’ volunteer’s needs and instead focuses on the rapid production of crêpes, in a manner consistent with the primary value of the information age: speed. The Theorist provides a constant flow of commentary, analysis, historical notes, theoretical interventions and literary quotes designed to simultaneously enrich the proceedings, distract the participants, and complicate the information flow. While the two cameras trained on the Chef and the Volunteer will project their activities continuously, the projection from the Theorist’s camera will be interspersed with other textual and visual information.