Jan Švankmajer on Food

Jan Švankmajer on FOOD


Although we called our exhibition Food, it doesn’t mean that we consider what we do as some kind of “ nourishment for the spirit” or that we will be serving goulash in our exhibition, but because food is a short, easily comprehensible word, while the function it describes is practiced universally. Once upon a time Dali wrote that beauty is either to become edible, or it won’t be at all. Food is closely related to eroticism, it is basically an analogous function. Through love some people are even capable of devouring their beloved partner. In a similar way food also serves as an analogy to artistic creativity. Digestion is then analogous to the creative process, all the way to its ultimate consequences.

Food is perhaps the most apt symbol of our civilization because in its insatiable aggression, our civilization consumes everything around us: nature, animals, whole ethnic groups, cultures… everything gets digested in its utilitarian maw only to be excreted as money – the excrement of our times. Just like a small child our civilisation considers its excrements to be the most valuable product it managed to squeeze out, and uses it to reward its favourites. Yes, our civilization has become arrested at the anal-sadistic stage of its libidinal development. It is a most dangerous perversion…

“Eat! Please eat! If you don’t eat, you will die.” I have heard this so many times in childhood from my parents. When I was six I was so skinny that my Mum had to push me around in a wheelchair. Because of my morbid gauntness I wasn’t even accepted to school. I was fed ferriferous wine, fish oil (apparently to stimulate appetite). They sent me to feeding camps, where we were given a packet of sweets for every extra kilo we managed to put on in one week. (We always drunk lots of water just before the weighing). Anyhow, it is not quite right to say that if you don’t eat, you will die. You will die all the same, even if you do eat.

From Jidlo, Jan & Eva Švankmajer exhibition catalogue, Prague, 2004.

Translated by Tereza Stehlikova

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