Thursday, April 21, 2011

This is not a pie

Jonathan Jones argues in The Guardian that – Heston Blumenthal and Alexander McQueen notwithstanding – neither food nor fashion can ever be art. The distinction he makes is that eating and wearing are too grounded in banal reality. “Art is of the mind; it is ethereal,” he says. “Everything it gives us it gives to our brains. Fashion and food fail to be serious art because they are trapped in the physical world.” Essentially, he’s taking Wilde’s assertion that all art is quite useless, and drawing from that the conclusion that anything that is useful cannot be art.

But this ignores the fact that purpose and frivolity can exist in one and the same object. A few months ago, I had a meal in a Bangkok restaurant that was delicious and nutritious and filling. But what I’ll remember is the gold-painted spots on the mushrooms; the rosemary-scented smoke that miraculously wafted out when you tapped a crust of bread; the intricate designs, like Victorian wallpaper, that the waiter etched into the sauce before he presented my pudding. It was molecular Lewis Carroll and postmodern Roald Dahl, nursery food with 21st-century technology, Escoffier gone steampunk. The whole experience was captivating and moving and by the end I was near tears. I don’t claim to know much about clothes, but I suspect that frocks and flip-flops have had a similar effect on some of you. And if that’s not art, I’m not sure what is, and I don’t think Jonathan Jones does either.

(And yes, I reused the crap joke I made when I commented on the article. So suet me.)


expat@large said...

Restaurant? Doesn't sound like it's Gaggan...

Tim F said...

It was Le Normandie, of all places. They're having a bit of a mid-life crisis, it seems, but it still tastes nice.

Annie said...

"...a flower is useless." Um, apart from its function to reproduce the species... I think Oscar didn't pick a good example to make his point, and neither did Jonathan Jones.

The documentary 'McQueen and I' was convincing enough about fashion. In one brilliant early catwalk show, he made the audience wait for two hours in a mirrored set before it started. I love the idea that he forced this vain, shallow industry to stare at itself for two hours. Theatre as well as art.

That restaurant sounds lovely, especially the mushrooms.