McDonald's sign outside a restaurant. (Photo | AP)
McDonald's sign outside a restaurant. (Photo | AP)

A new meaning to ‘relishing’art

I don’t know if the pickle installation, currently on display at Michael Lett, a gallery in Auckland, has sold.

CHENNAI: Someone I’m just going to say someone because I just cannot bear to add to this person’s fame threw a ketchup-smeared pickle slice from a McDonald’s burger up at the ceiling of an art gallery and called it Art. The acid in my belly is simply simmering. Is it envy? Is it hunger?

With me, it’s always hunger. Though this time, it’s a little envy too (what is also called, ahem, indignation). I mean the stars are art, the smog is art, the steam from a kettle is art, the stretchmarks on my thigh are art but they are not Art and they are certainly not price tagged at $10,000 New Zealand dollars.

I don’t know if the pickle installation, currently on display at Michael Lett, a gallery in Auckland, has sold. The banana duct-taped to the wall for $120,000 US dollars at Art Basel in 2019 did sell, after all. Art pieces tend to stay up, discreetly stickered to indicate their taken status, until exhibitions are over — so not only was that banana sold but it was also consumed post-purchase.

By a performance artist (not the purchaser). With an audience, presumably applauding this high concept culinary desecration and its statement on, I dunno, futility, mortality and gastroenterology? Of course, the authentic, artistic spirit of the original banana lived on — a new one was immediately taped up. Presumably, the owners of this intangible banana routinely have the tangible bananas replaced, wherever they are displaying this Art.

That pickle slice on the ceiling it’s a steal, really. Someone probably bought it. Maybe someone else will risk their tummy for a ladder-related performance piece involving eating an ingredient that’s been exposed for weeks. “Someone” you know. So many someones that this world is full of. Sigh. Also, a confession: I’ve blocked the Artist’s (yeah, capital A because A is for…) name from my memory already, because why should they live rent-free in my head? I suppose to finesse my frustration better, I ought to say: art, not artist, etc. Yeah. Sigh.

I read about the profound pickle, felt all kinds of pangs and pains, and then went and checked my bank statement again to see if the quarterly capitalised interest that was due days ago had come in. One keeps an eye on these things, you know — unless money is no object (or apropos nothing, nothing at all, art object). It had not. I settled in to contemplate the ceiling for a bit. I certainly felt like throwing something at it.

The installation in New Zealand is fittingly called “Pickle”; the Art Basel one was titled even more aptly, “Comedian”. The funniest thing about it is also the most terrifying: it was a ferocious success. Such effortless gains are made from deliberate spectacles, in art and in other realms. (Sigh). What else was there to do but mope a little, try to count my blessings and not my bank balance, and then — as one is always suggestible when it comes to food — order a burger? And enjoy it, because why not? Another word for pickle is “relish”, and one should take that as a verb. All is art, after all.

Sharanya Manivannan


The columnist is a writer and illustrator

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