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Active Cultures: food and art jump into the same pot

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"It'll be messy in the spirit of the Fluxists and all infantile artists," says artist and curator Nancy Van Kanegan about Saturday's Ridiculist Banquet, which will feature food-themed films, music, and performances, as well as oatmeal facials, a fruit mandala, and a mashed potato table where guests can sculpt with spuds. Van Kanegan will also show a map of Rogers Park--made entirely of edibles from that neighborhood.

"One of the great things about food is its ephemeral quality--it's either consumed or it's spoiled," says Van Kanegan, who earned a master's degree in 1993 from Columbia College's interdisciplinary arts program. She says this weekend's event was inspired by the 1932 Futurist Cookbook, which includes author F.T. Marinetti's menus for futurist banquets. "He believed that for Italy to be a force in the modern world, they had to change the modern diet," she says. "So the futurists' restaurants served no pasta, only risotto. Their conceptual banquets sometimes consisted only of fragrances, or really outrageous foods."

She and collaborator David Westling were working on a series of video pieces based on those banquets when she "decided to do a big party and make it more postmodern and have it under the heading of ridiculism."

That's the term she and a couple friends coined several years ago to identify their work. Ridiculism is "a philosophy or artistic way of thinking along the lines of surrealism and futurism and dadaism," she explains. Like the futurists, Van Kanegan, Westling, and Austin-based artist Nancy McGalliard--who recorded a sound piece of original ridiculist songs for the banquet--have written a manifesto. Among other things, it calls for adherents to "Eat what you wish and you will wish as you eat. Taste Delight when the pie flies in your face. Fast to be slow, Agree to deny. Laugh shout gargle moan and look at the world through all of your eyes."

The manifesto was passed on to the artists contributing work to the banquet, including Barrie Cole, Laura Chenault, Lynn King, Lisa Cargill, Shannon Greenrobb, Summer Kee, Nicole Garneau, Jeffrey Letterly, Janel Horvath, and Teri Vrakas. "We feel that all artists strive toward the ridiculous, whether they admit it or not," says Van Kanegan. "We scoff at the idea that all art must be created out of pain.

"One of the proposals is really ridiculous," she adds. "Nance Klehm [whom Van Kanegan met last month at a party for artists named Nancy] wants to take people around the neighborhood and look for edible plants. It's at the corner of Armitage and Western and Milwaukee. I don't know. We'll see what she can find."

The banquet takes place from 8 PM to midnight on Saturday, July 21, at the Free Flow Gallery on the second floor of 1902 N. Milwaukee. Attendees are encouraged to contribute real or "conceptual" food to the potluck table and dress in food-related costumes; prizes will be awarded "for the utterly, totally, and sublimely ridiculous." The $10 admission benefits Columbia College's Inter Arts Alumni Scholarship Fund. Reservations are recommended; call 773-743-6499.

Art accompanying story in printed newspaper (not available in this archive): photo/Katherine Klein.

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