Last weekend I participated in a project for the artists Lars Jerlach and Helen Stringfellow who make up Techtonic Industries. Helen has taught several kids and adult workshops here at the Walker. The project, the longer i sit the less inclined i am to stand up will be a piece that, as the artists state: “ is a video installation exploring our constant quest for self improvement and the celebrity cult of the chef.” The artists brought a portable tv/dvd player into my kitchen, a supply of ingredients, and cued up an episode of Rachael Ray’s 30 Minute Meals, a show that is programmed pretty much incessantly on the FoodTV network.
The premise is that Rachael Ray, an exceptionally bubbly “ non-trained” chef can whip up healthy, tasty meals from start to finish in “ the time it takes you to watch the show.” As I viewed the episode, commercials and all, I cooked along with Rachael and tried to live up to the 30 minute challenge, and it was definitely a challenge. The idea of improving oneself through watching a cooking show is a part of the work, yet by participating in the project it underscored for me what a false pretense the whole thing is. Let’s just say I managed to cook the meal in 30 minutes, but at the end I was exhausted and sweaty, and my onions were in giant chunks, rather than in the petite little cubes as seen on the show.
I’ve always sort of enjoyed the show up until this point, but participating in this project underscored for me how incredibly fakey the whole thing is, and how it sets these sort of weird standards for “ success in life.” Also, its really annoying how Rachael perkily calls the olive oil the EVOO (extra virgin olive oil), particularly when you’re just trying to figure out what the hell she just added to the pan (I guess that’s why there is a community of Rachael Ray haters out there). The work will be on view at the Rochester Art Center from March 20-May 28 as part of the Emerging Artists Series.