As summer days slip away, perhaps you’re thinking back to your “best salad” of the season. For me, it’s the one documented below, the salad Alison Knowles made for Walker Open Field on July 10. Knowles is a founding member of the avant-garde art group Fluxus, and her work is currently on view in the exhibition Art Expanded, 1958–1978. Known for her sound works, installations, performances, and publications, Knowles came to the Walker to present one of her most iconic event scores, Make a Salad. What follows below is a sequence of images and thoughts that long to reinstate the moment itself—the moment when it was happening—when we were only doing what we were doing. Making a salad. The best salad.
The artist introduces herself and her collaborator, Joshua Selman. A fresh tarp is on the ground. The late afternoon light is soft through overcast skies and it’s pleasant.
Listen to subtle and sporadic sounds: a recorded voice set in static, silence, the voice again, then the buzz of an amplified paper shredder. Notice a faint scent as sheets of nori become thin ribbons, slipping into the bowl or drifting to the ground.
The choppers are ready. The artist signals. The choppers begin.
Radishes thud as they strike the tarp. Greens, dressed in balsamic vinaigrette, make softer smattering sounds. The artist cuts and reams three lemons. She pours the mouth-watering juice over the salad. The citrus scent wafts.
Helpers toss the salad. The mass of vegetables provides resistance to the rakes. Shovel back and shovel forward.
Serve a salad. Be served a salad.
Share a salad. Notice what you’re doing. Remember this for later.
Of course, if I say, “remember a salad,” that’s vastly different from my saying “make a salad.” What remains once the action ends? And how did the artist’s instruction exist before being enacted? These questions point to abstractions: suppositions, ideas, memories, residues. The in-between, while arguably more ephemeral, is less complicated, as Alison Knowles eloquently expresses of her iconic score, Make a Salad:
“. . . that’s what you’re doing. You’re only making a salad. And these are the best salads.”