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I wanted to actually see what it would be like to get people who mostly had no idea how to make chicken nuggets make them in an assembly line.  I set up a simple assembly line with instructions and had each member of the thesis class man stations and isolate themselves by wearing headphones playing factory sounds.  The only exception was DeWolf and Xander, who worked together to butcher the chicken and who really enjoyed the experience of working together.  I designed and printed the instructions and also designed, printed, cut and formed the nugget packaging.

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There are still many things to work out here, including the concise message I want to convey and how to ensure that it is not muddied by the participants actions and participation.  This is a video of what happened:

Feedback + Thoughts (11.19):

I realized many things in prototyping this experience and was also inspired to move forward with the idea.  These are notes from critique with my fellow students as well as guest critic, Masako Fujihata.

  • Some participants enjoyed working as a team and the idea of working together to create something
  • The sound creates a feeling of isolation vs. everyone hearing it together (headphones vs. speakers)
  • Participants wished that they could have completed all the steps as a group from start to finish, instead of using ingredients already prepared for each step.
  • Is the final product an “artisanal treat” or sealed and inedible?
  • What is the connection between audience and process?
  • Should there be a distinction between signing up to be factory worker or signing up to eat a nugget? Should it be random? Should eaters be completely disconnected from the participants?
  • What is the method of creation vs. delivery of nuggets and how does it affect each sides experience.
  • Sign up to receive and it’s by chance whether or not you get to eat or create.
  • Define a language of invitation and selling/giving away, etc.
  • Clearer instructions, how are people taught to do their stations?

Evaluation:

It was thrilling to actually try out what has been slowly snowballing in my mind all quarter.  The path wasn’t clear from the beginning and I think the desire to work with food, food processing and cooking as mediums was distracting and difficult to manipulate.  The prototype proves that delving into processing food by allowing individuals to engage in the processing is both stimulating and thought provoking.  Clarifying the message may be something I’ll have to address in creating the environment, simplifying the instructions and exploring the output, what happens with the final edible product.

NEXT  Creating this as an experience to convey a message is no easy challenge but I remain excited to continue forward, focusing on the details that matter most and building the ecosystem in which the experience will exist.  Over the next 10 or so weeks I will design the experience from what participants will have to wear as they engage in the process to how the output will be branded.  There are many logistical hurdles ahead like how the piece will remain clean and food safe and that will also require another level of design: everything behind the scenes must also be carefully thought out for this project to work.  It will almost be like starting a tiny snack restaurant with a rotating staff that must be retrained at the beginning of every shift.  But I think that is part of what is so exciting to me about this project.

Audio listend to by the participants using headphones while doing their task on the assembly line. Credit.

My concept is to have visitors the gallery butcher chickens, grind meat, shape the ground meat into nuggets, bread and batter them, par-fry them and then vacuum seal them so the visitor can take them home.

process

Through this project I hope to address and accomplish the following:

  • Involve and expose viewers to the performance aspects of preparing and cooking
  • Demystify the complex process of creating a processed food and empower people with the confidence to experiment in the kitchen and be adventurous with ingredients
  • Provide an artifact of the experience in the form of a packaged frozen product that could be consumed or live in the viewer’s freezer.  It’s funny to suppose that someone might keep an art piece in their freezer but also could eat it and keep the packaging out on display.  The packaging must be considered as much as the process the participants will engage with.

Other thoughts:

  • The actual making of nuggets could be behind a curtain or wall such that the viewers only see a final product and then if they consent can step behind the curtain and participate.
  • There could be some hint as to what the final product is outside the gallery — for example, an overstated, or oversized example: a giant chicken mcnugget.
  • the “costume” and culture must be well established so that participants feel like they are part of a real, existing process and team.  Consider the factory experience.

Feedback (11.17):

  • separation between people participating and people watching
  • who gets to participate vs. who watches
  • do they participate in pairs? one person makes it, one person gets the product
  • can you just hear it? see suggestions of what’s going on? smell it?
  • how do you heighten the experience with artifacts or other additions? to draw out necessary thought and consideration – don’t want them to figure it out right away
  • customized, non-directly abstracted artifacts of process (custom coats, hairnets, protect
  • How disconnected can I make people feel from the final product? Just cogs in the system
  • Branding markets process (Intel) not item — stories — make fun of farm to table
  • Anonymity of people doing the process? Block out their faces or what they’re doing?
  • How to get ppl to focus on what I want them to focus on**
  • Do you need 6 ppl to participate

Evaluation:

This project was really about choosing and defining a direction for the next 14+ weeks of planning and building.  I feel like the central idea, allowing viewers to engage in a very controlled process to create chicken nuggets will definitely force them to think about what and how they cook and eat.  I’m happy with the success of this proposal and concept and I’m excited to move on to prototype what it might look like in a gallery setting, starting with actually just having the class make nuggets.  So, overall, a successful project and I’m really excited to move forward and start prototyping what the experience will look like.

I’m considering how best to portray performance in food as a gallery installation piece. I think the subject must be quite striking and also accessible to anyone.  We have all heard myths about how McNuggets are made but I think participating in making them would be a very different experience.  I’m considering building an installation in which participants actually make chicken nuggets and participate in various stages of the process.

And to figure out how they’re made, I found a few very interesting videos put up by McDonalds and Cargill that show the process:

It’s also interesting to note how style food for ads compared with how it looks when ordered in a restaurant. This could also be an interesting comparison and participatory installation.

So, using this recipe as a guide, I made some turkey nuggets to see how feasible it would be to have people make mcnuggets in a gallery setting.

nuggets-test1 nuggets-test2

“My name is Andy Warhol and I just finished eating uh, a hamburger.”

and on a related note….

As I set out to put together various items to act as my mise-en-place, I realized the task was a bit more involved than just foraging for materials.  It’s actually quite difficult to search for materials to create art piece with, without an idea for what that piece will be.  With food, gathering ingredients is the inspiration, it’s when ideas can build.  This can happen with materials as well and I think with further exploration, possibly in different materials outlets, I will be more inspired.

This project became more about showing the process of cooking one of my favorite meals through the tools I use but in a very static way.  I feel influenced by the Fluxus kits which are directed at very specific tasks or outcomes.  I wanted to display the tools as pop-outs, like how the pieces come in model airplane kits; each tool in the pop-out representing an element of the performance that I went through to create the meal, braised chicken with salsa verde.

performance-tools1 performance-tools2

Laser cutting the forms at about a 2/3 scale gave me an idea of what these pieces could look like. I envision them as wall pieces — possibly machined out of aluminum or wood and painted a single color. The piece differs from my original plan to explore mies-en-place but it still shows an extreme attention to lay-out of tools in a way that most people would never consider.

Feedback was helpful and made me realize that I needed to choose a setting for this project; in a gallery, in a kitchen, as a performance, on the wall, etc.  Physical attributes of the piece are also important, including the dimensionality of  the tools, showing time as well.  Arranging the tools in this way makes the meal seem sterile, is this my intention? Do I want to make it seem as though the outcome is always predefined and that the process is as well?  Does this accomplish showing the process of making this meal or are the implements too abstract?  The abstract view of them actually makes them into simple symbols, which I think is also compelling.

In a next iteration of this, I’d like to make a full-sized version, possibly using ready-made tools.

Fluxus is a project organized by George Maciunas exploring and redefining the meaning of art in society.  A group of artists created a series of kits that are especially interesting to me.

What is art good for? This was a central question for Fluxus organizer George Maciunas, who devoted his life to analyzing the role of art throughout history and to proposing what it might be good for. For Maciunas, art at its best is part of the social process, as it was from prehistoric times to the Renaissance (no. 2). In modern times, it has become imbued with a unique aura and seen as something to be evaluated by specialists and collected by museums. Fluxus artists took up the task of re-embedding art within everyday life, picking up where Dada and Russian Constructivist artists left off after World War I. Maciunas and Fluxus colleagues George Brecht, Yoko Ono, and Robert Filliou observed:
Promote NON ART REALITY to be fully grasped by all peoples, not only critics, dilettantes and professionals. (George Maciunas, 1963)

The natural state of life and mind is complexity. At this point, what art can offer . . . is an absence of complexity, a vacuum through which you are led to a state of complete relaxation of mind. After that you may return to the complexity of life again, it may not be the same, or it may be, or you may never return, but that is your problem. (Yoko Ono, 1966)

Fluxus Resources:

Fluxus Digital Library @ U. Illinois

Antidiets of the Avant Garde

Fluxus Films

 Fluxus and The Essential Questions of Life

Modern Versions of Fluxus

This could be an interesting concept to play with

Reflecting on my first project and cooking a lot of other meals recently, I’ve realized a few things and updated my project outline.  The following ideas motivate these changes:

Seasonality in cooking is incredibly important to me and dictates what I cook and how I prepare it.  Ingredients in season taste the best they can possibly taste — and they require very little to taste good.  To cook simply is to let the ingredients stand for themselves.

Local is important, it doesn’t always define what I’ll cook but it enhances the experience of enjoying a meal when you know where the ingredients came from, when there is a story behind them.

Everything works together — it meshes.  I always procure ingredients so that I can cook a variety of dishes with them, mix and match.  Although each dish is defined, they can all be enjoyed together without boundaries and each enhances the other.

Studio Projects

Project 2: Mise-En-Place

November 3

Put together various elements that will allow me to create small pieces of art in the same manner that I cook.  Applying the same process that I use to come up with and create a meal, assemble ingredients in the same way.  Track the experience noting my own level of enthusiasm.  Curate these items so that they could all work together in various combinations to create a variety of pieces that will play with each other.  Materials will be sourced locally and be “in season” — as with food, these will be the best and most inspiring ingredients available to me for creation.  They could include but are not limited to: wood, leather, plastics, hardware, paper, stone, found and repurposed objects.

Project 3: Snacks

November 12

Using the Mise-en-Place from Project 2, create small works of art.  Explore creating for myself and for others.  Also explore the performance aspect of actually creating these things and whether or not that is worth putting on display.  Again, track enthusiasm as I go to understand the parts that come the easiest and parts that are more difficult to get through.