Corinna Howell / Food for Thought
Top Gallery, Salamanca Arts Centre
Food for Thought is a collection of old adapted paintings in contrast with new paintings. I explore the contemporary issue of ourselves as having lost the simplicity of genuine, un-distracted relationships to one-another, in a world where we know everyone not just as a person as we see them in front of us, but as someone who exists in multiple online platforms and applications.
This is a collection of images wherein eating food plays the part of the social “middleman” – delivering a ground and platform for interaction to take on many meanings – a conversation starter, the beginning of social protocol and etiquette, the reason for coming together, a reason to take a break, a celebration, a need to be close and a need to connect.
These paintings form a juxtaposition of moments that are intimate, private and genuine, crossed with ones that are publicly and explicitly shared over social media.
In the painting The New Supper I take the online phenomenon “Mukbang” that is a sub-culture of the broader online ASMR (Autonomous Sensory Meridian Response) community and practice, as an example to visualise the differences in the authenticity of our feelings and interactions through new-media and in reality, in typical contemporary life today.
Mukbang is a commonly used term to describe the practice, art and work of streaming yourself eating online to a live audience who can send you money, requests and comments. ASMR describes the feeling of a tingling sensation or emotional response to certain sounds and stimuli. During a time I had felt my lowest, I had found this community and became immersed in its content. During this time where I was struggling with attempts to form authentic bonds with loved ones who I could only reach online, I became fascinated that ASMR-tists, as they are called, found whole communities of people who were willing to sit across their virtual table, across the virtual web, through their screens - and then watch them eat their meals. Some ASMR-tists made their content with genuine interest in bringing calm and company into someone's day - others saw it as a much more performative opportunity, with monetary gain.
The supporting paintings are all of simpler moments - where people had a reason to seek each other in reality. The food can be a buffer for the interaction that can take place, as well as the act of sharing a meal that can bond us. The act of each photograph being taken in that moment is a token of the importance it had to those in front and behind the lens. These moments to me represent a much more authentic connection between people - in honesty, this is a way for myself to admit that I miss the presence of others the way it was in these moments.
These paintings come from a personal longing to feel authentically close to others again. The way we do when we see first-hand in each other the small details of facial and body expressions, a reaction to a comment, the delicacy of a physical space between us. To feel the presence of a person as they stand before you. As simple as sharing a meal together.