October 15, 2016 6:00pm-8:00pm
Gallery 101, 51B Young Street, Ottawa
In 2006, Karina Bergmans and I presented The Cake Show, a performance inspired by the visual similarities between women’s clothing and pastry decoration as well as the communal importance of sharing the classic desert. The Cake Show delved into the subjects of both festivity and feminism through wearable cake dresses donned by the artists. A decade of independent practice later, we now collaborate on a new performance entitled Meat Meet an event which broaches the controversial topic of the place of meat consumption in our society.
Meat Meet has evolved over several stages, the first being the creation of several wearable meat-like sculptures constructed through a variety of techniques such hand and machine sewing, serging, embroidery, felting and stuffing. The cuts of meat and meat based repast range from choice and fancy such as t-bone steak and filet mignon to mid range food-stuffs such as ribs, short ribs and rump roast to tasty items of questionable substance, such as sausage and bacon.
Meat Meet's original germ of inspiration was drawn from the traditional ceremonial division of meat in Indo-European societies. The sharing of an animal helped forge communal bonds while it simultaneously forged a class structure. Patterns of unequal distribution can be found in texts ranging from the Vedas of Ancient India to the Greek Hymn to Hermes, to the Feast of Tara as described in the Ulster Cycle. The apportionment of the microcosm of an animal's body articulated the macrocosm of societal structures. When a community sat down to share a meal, the choices cuts were given to members of the ruling class while the entrails were given to peripheral members of society.
In the twentieth century not much had changed in the economics of meat consumption. Porter-House and t-bone steaks were still primarily available to the well to do, while people on a tight budget had to be satisfied with ground beef and hot dogs. The role of carving the roast or manning the BBQ still held an important prestige. Today, however, new factors are being taken into account in how we value meat and meat distribution. We understand that with the prominence of factory farming the place of meat in our diet comes at the cost of the quality of life of animals as well the depletion of soil and forest. Nevertheless, as with most goods we consume, there is a price attached to respecting the moral implications of a product’s origin. Ethically sourced meats are more expensive even if they are ‘low’ meats like sausage and while vegetarianism is a popular option it requires careful planning to provide the iron and protein instantly supplied by steak or roast beef.
During the performance onlookers are confronted by un-cut versions of the animals which serve as the primary source of read meat in North American society, namely a cow and pig. The creatures in question slowly dismantle themselves going from living wholes to constituent parts. The power position of the distribution of cuts of meat is taken on by the animals themselves. For those who feel peckish, real ethically sourced sausage and vegetarian hot-dogs are available from a hot-dog stand. Generally the joyous purveyor of mystery-meats, the cart becomes reconnected to the provenance of the treats it distributes.
The presentation of Meat Meat is timed with the harvest related such events as the fall feast of Thanksgiving and the pagan sabbaths of Lammas and the Samhain.