I have so much to be thankful for that I don’t need one particular day set aside to remind me of this. Nevertheless, I happily will take the next two days off from my day job, hang out with my family, eat, and of course… fiddle with my art projects! I have an exhibition coming up soon (late January 2014 at the Carnegie Museum of Art and History in New Albany, Indiana) and I have been going through my Falls of the Ohio river junk and thinking about what this show might feature of my work? It’s going to be a two-person show and so there will be a great space to fill.
I recently went through my various river collections including my Fake Food Collection which is ongoing and I have added many new pieces over the past year. The Ohio River has been bountiful in fact over a ten-year period, it has been a regular liquid cornucopia. Although I haven’t counted each item, I’ll wager my Fake Food Collection has about a couple hundred pieces now… all of it collected one piece at a time, off of the riverbank. It’s interesting to think of this stuff as being a part of the fake food tradition. I’ve seen examples of fake Japanese sushi that look amazingly like the real thing…but not at the Falls.
After all these years, I’m still blown away…perplexed…morbidly fascinated and repulsed…insert other adjectives here…that so much of this stuff exits and that most of it is made from plastic. I’m just one person living near a river in the interior of a big country and this is what I’ve found at this single location. Do other American rivers flow with plastic produce and is it all floating towards the oceans? It’s so curious that we use a natural resource like petroleum to produce artificial food even if it is intended to be playthings. It personally strikes me as an affront to nature especially once it materially starts breaking down and merging with the substrates we depend on. Perhaps some of you wordsmiths out there will put your finger on exactly why this stuff is so provoking?
Okay…enough of that, now where’s the beef? Where’s the plastic meat the title of this post promised? I was curious about that myself and so I went through my collection and this is what shook out. Bon appetite!
Since Thanksgiving here traditionally means roast fowl of some sort…I thought I would start with a couple of roasted birds and drumsticks. Of course these items are miniature and I realize that a coin for scale would help. Okay, I’ve found my ruler and if you must know…the biggest object in the above photo is 3.5 inches or 9 centimeters long. The middle drumstick on the bottom row has a dark patina acquired from spending much time in the river.
This last image of roast fowl looks like something (probably the family dog) tried to eat! Notice the teeth marks on the carcass. Now that we are done with the appetizer… let’s move on to the fake hamburgers and cheeseburgers. I know the old salivary glands are probably kicking in now!
Here’s a couple of shots of the items in question. In ten years time, the river has washed up and I have found seven cheeseburgers and hamburgers, three loose bun tops, and yes…two crinkle cut french fries (only one is shown) all are made of various plastic recipes. Several of the burger toys I’m pretty sure were intended as dog toys. Some of the them still have the little squeaker in the bottom bun. The others probably came from children’s play sets. As you can see…they are variously dressed with condiments and the buns go from plain to featuring sesame seeds in white, brown, and black colors. I have some individual burger portraits too. Here’s several examples of how you can have it your way. The larger burgers are roughly life-size to slightly smaller than the real deals.
Ahhh…a black poppy-seed bun heavy on the lettuce and tomatoes.
Here’s a plain bun, segregate the tomato on one side and the lettuce on the other option. The meat here is more of a textural suggestion.
This is a gaudy burger with hints of mustard and two layers of tomatoes!
Not sure if that’s melted yellow cheese or more mustard squeezing over the edge? Looks de-lish nevertheless! If you are wondering what artificial food looks like in a natural environment…here are a two images of plastic meat as I found them in place.
This one has white poppy seeds on the bun, frilly lettuce, and a nice grimy river patina. Let’s leave the burgers and head into new territory. First an image of our next plastic meat subset.
I can remember the joyful moment of finding this rare double score. Two conjoined, Siamese twin plastic hot dogs resting on a bed of Styrofoam and river sticks. Of course, I had to take a picture! Now, for a snapshot of my hot dog collection.
As you can see…these tube steaks and buns vary in size. The largest example at the very top has all of its paint gone, but you can see where a fake mustard squiggle would be. Perhaps some of them are actually intended to be Vienna sausages, but who knows? One particularly prized find is the Oscar Mayer Wiener Mobile whistle in the bottom right hand corner. I’ve propped it up on a plastic french fry to get a better side view. There are plastic meats that I know are out there (like fake steaks or even slices of plastic pizza with f aux pepperoni), but I have yet to find examples by the river. I do have a code I go by…unless I find it at the Falls of the Ohio…I won’t compromise my collection with non-Falls items. It’s a part of the quest and fun of what scrumptious simulacra will turn up next. Is Rack of Lamb or Pot Roast on the menu…only time will tell? For now, I will content myself with this Double Decker Dog…Happy Thanksgiving from the Falls of the Ohio.
Postscript: Less than a month after publishing this post…I found plastic hamburger combination #8 in the late December driftwood. Here’s a couple of images made in the field.