From a series of collaborations exploring ideas of identity;  how we are perceived, how we perceive ourselves and how we might confuse or subvert expectations . This image was made with costume designer Pam Tait  in response to the idea that with ageing we are expected to become invisible. Earlier posts show further collaborations

Sensuous Materials – Food


The diner is served from the right with a plate containing some black olives, fennel hearts and kumquats. From the left he is served with a rectangle made of sandpaper, silk and velvet. The foods must be carried directly to the mouth with the right hand while the left hand lightly and repeatedly strokes the tactile rectangle. In the meantime the waiters spray the napes of the diners’ necks with a conprofumo [perfume] of carnations while from the kitchen comes contemporaneously a violent conrumore [music] of an aeroplane motor and some dismusica [music] by Bach.

from the Futurist Cookbook by F.T. Marinetti c.1932
more about Marinetti’s book at Maria Popova’s blog

The innovation foundation nesta asked post graduate students at UCL to consider how we might devise a research programme to think about social dining. Do people eat together more … or less these days? Under what circumstances do they want to do it?

The Futurist Cookbook by artist and poet Filippo Tommaso Marinetti inspired a sensory workshop to think about these issues.

The following interventions were proposed and tested:

aural interventions – eating with various sounds being played through earphones.

unusual tools – using items not normally associated with food and inventing new sorts of eating implements

gustatory challenges – strange food combinations

discomfort – trying to eat while balancing on a wobbly surface or being fed by another person

The workshop is playful and sometimes challenging. This is embodied learning, actually performing an action has a quite different effect to simply imagining it, the experience is suprisingly revealing. We participants are all from different continents, there is accelerated learning about cultural eating practices and how differently people react to the sensual qualities of food and different ways of sharing food with other people -how it feels to be fed by someone you don’t know very well, how noise can be more or less bothersome and the way that physical difficulties affect the eating process.

sensuous materials – flowers

I was recently invited to ‘do a creative activity’ with some nursing home residents who were living with dementia

On my way to the resident’s lounge I can see piles of sad-looking floral arrangements in the conservatory. The previous day these had decorated tables for a wake, now they are ready for disposal. Many of the leaves are wilting but the majority of blooms are still good, I ask if we can use them for our activity.

We spread the flowers and foliage on a large table in the centre of the lounge. Jars and vases are discovered, residents who were not going to join us are fascinated by the preparations and help to lay out the ingredients. When we have everything necessary we sit ourselves around the table. We pick up stems that interest us, examine them, try different combinations, some of the arrangements go into vases, others stay on the table for reconfiguration.

We become a performance, there are periods of intense concentration, the quiet atmosphere encourages people to speak when they feel like it – the flowers bring out knowledge and long-forgotten memories. We consider the blooms, feeling their texture, smell their perfumes and we listen to each others offerings of gardening knowledge, poetry and stories of all sorts. A blind resident identifies many more of the specimens than the rest of us and someone recites beautiful snatches of Shakespeare.

As nursing home staff and visitors stop by to watch, listen and join in, the line between audience and performer is blurred.

Urban camouflage

from the hide/disguise series work-in-progress

Part of the  ‘camouflage’ series of images which addresses how we present ourselves and how we negotiate the idea that we must somehow ‘fit in’ but also ‘stand out’  from the crowd.