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The Crepe, the Theorist, the Chef and the Volunteer
Belle Gironda, University at Albany, and Nicole Peyrafitte, independent artist

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Alluquere Roseanne Stone, in her essay, "Will the Real Body Stand Up? notes that "much of the work of cyberspace researchers... assumes that the human body is "meat," obsolete, as soon as consciousness itself can be uploaded in to network. The discourse of the visionary virtual world builders is rife with images of imaginal bodies, freed from the constraints that flesh imposes. Cyberspace developers foresee a time when they will be able to forget about the body.

In our proposed performance, food, cooking and eating stand for the re-inscription of the tangible body into digital networks of information flow, in a way that highlights some less-remarked aspects of various feedback loops, and points to some real consequences, both for individual bodies and for populations.

In The Origin of Table Manners, Claude Levi Strauss writes, "Adapting itself to the exigencies of the body, and determined in its modes by the way man's insertion in nature operates in different parts of the world, placed then between nature and culture, cooking represents their necessary articulation. It partakes of both domains, and projects this duality on each of its manifestations. Our performance inserts cooking into the information economy so that it appears to straddle, the supposed nature/culture divide while actually undoing that dichotomy, which we know to be false. When commenting on Brillat-Savarin's, Physiology of Taste, Roland Barthes suggests that the cosmogeny of the culinary is one that reflects "the great myth, operative today, more than ever, among a technological humanity: the excellence of the tool (as opposed to the machine), the preeminence of the artisanal over the industrial, in a word the nostalgia for the Natural.

The Chef, (unlike "the cook , who, in some formulations, might present as the earthy, nurturing provider of sustenance), is, in this performance, exemplar of expertise, and the power of those few who are truly "in the know in an information economy. The Chef is the primary useful information source for the Volunteer, who must attempt to learn to make a crepe by following the Chef, who is present (on the other side of the partition), but visible only via live video feed on the computer screen. The Chef has no regard for the newbie’ volunteer's needs and instead focuses on the rapid production of crepes, in a manner consistent with the primary value of the information age: speed.

The Theorist provides a constant flow of commentary, analysis, historical notes, theoretical interventions and literary quotes designed to simultaneously enrich the proceedings, distract the participants and complicate the information flow. While the two cameras trained on the Chef and the Volunteer will project their activities continuously, the projection from the Theorist's camera will be interspersed with other textual and visual information.

The audience will be subjected to the sights and smells of food cooking throughout the performance. But when it is time to serve crepes, only those who hold the few plates that were passed at random will be allowed to line up eat—a reminder that the information economy is not particularly about feeding people.

The Crepe, the Theorist, the Chef and the Volunteer

This is a staged audience-participation performance involving the rendering of instructions (a recipe and how to execute it) as code, through digital transmission devices. Individual audience volunteers must attempt to cook a crepe by following a simultaneous video transmission of a live chef performing those same steps on the other side of a partition. The chef will be invisible to the audience member (and vice versa) and all information will come to each of them through live video feed that he or she will watch on a computer screen. This transmission will be continuously interrupted and assisted by a third "information source who will provide a discourse on and theorization of the process as well as impromptu diversions and sudden requests. The rest of the audience will view and listen to the chef, the theorist, and the volunteer on three screens, simultaneously. The chef will be working on three burners at a time, "mass producing crepes. As soon as the volunteer has finished one crepe, the theorist will do a critical reading of it. If it is deemed worthy for consumption, then the chef's production, up to this point, will then be distributed to the audience.

During the process of cooking the audience is also continuously passing among themselves 10 plates that were handed out at random, in advance. Whichever 10 people are holding plates when the volunteer has finished his or her crepe will line up to eat. The whole process will repeat as time allows.

 

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