Saturday, March 15, 2008

So how do you feel?

Catherine Smith and I had a wonderful day at the Wellcome Collection in London which proved to me - as if I didn't know - that a day away from my desk (and the computer) feeds my writing appetite.

So it was appropriate that the exhibits that struck me particularly were all about our relationship with food. It's hard to miss John Isaac's life-size I CAN'T HELP THE WAY I FEEL:



He says of his figure that he wanted to show how our physical self-image can be a metaphor of the way we're governed by our emotional landscape. It really resonated with me - I've had days when I've felt like the figure above and had a shock to see someone normal looking back at me from the mirror. Also days when I'm so knackered, I feel like a tiny stunted figure too. Interesting to think about how the outside rarely reflects the inside though.

In her piece, EAT 22, Ellie Harrison recorded everything she ate for a whole year:



Not one morsel passed her lips unless she was photographed with it. As well as the book, she'd recorded the images in a non-stop slideshow which felt as if you were hallucinating to watch it. It was like one of those children's flicker books, seeing food being endlessly consumed in a variety of different settings.

And I remember this kind of portion control plate - not that we ever had one, although it brought back horrible memories of sitting in front of really terrible food and having to eat it all up 'because of the starving children'. I could never understand how it helped them, but it still feels wrong to leave food on my plate somehow. Am I the only one?



And just to show how far removed we seem to be from the ability to manage our own hunger and nutritional needs, here are only a few of the diet books on display at the exhibition ...



More pictures of shoes for bound feet, sex aids, and portable false eyes from the Collection coming soon...

7 comments:

Clare said...

I know exactly what you mean about the starving children. I used to eat so much I'd feel sick when I was little, because I was always being told to eat everything on my plate.

I still hate wasting food (but I've got out of the habit of saving spoonfuls of leftovers, thank goodness). I hate a full fridge because all that food has to be eaten.

SueG said...

Love the photos!! But, here's a question -- back where I came from, we used to say "think of the starving children in Europe." They were always starving in Europe. Never anywhere else. Did you have to "think of the starving children in America?" What do we say now? "Eat it. No? Never mind then." It's a different world, isn't it.

Sarah Salway said...

We do all saving the leftover stuff still, Clare. Well, until it goes nice and mouldy!
And so pleased to think you were thinking of us, Sue. We were thinking of China, if I remember rightly.

jem said...

That Ellie Harrison piece is very scary - a food diary extreme. Thinking about anything too closely is quite frightening I think. Now I'm imagining a book listing every word I used in a year. I wonder if it would be pleasing thick or worryingly slender.

Great to hear mention of Catherine Smith - she taught me at a writing course about 9 years ago. Kind of where I started!

Kathryn said...

I rarely leave any food on my plate which probably explains why I feel like John Isaac's piece! I think that my father was brought up by his Victorian parents to believe that it was polite to leave something on the plate and he always continued to do it, much to my mother's annoyance.

the blueblog said...

We used to get 'there are people starving in Wolverhampton', but it was at the time of the great pork dripping shortage in the mid-70s and you couldn't by offal for love nor money.

Sarah Salway said...

A character who writes down every word they use ... now that would be interesting, Jem. And you were lucky to start with Catherine - she's brilliant.

That's interesting, Kathryn. MInd you, I'm the youngest of four so I learnt to eat extra quickly otherwise all my food would have been stolen. If it was nice, that is.

Anthony, I'd forgotten the great pork dripping shortage. That explains a lot about you...