“This exhibition is a collection of paintings, most portraiture, of spaces that are entered and captured when eating becomes a subtopic of an event. I explore what transpires, even when those circumstances are subtle, when people eat together physically and multi-modally through new media. The collection of images wherein eating food plays the part of the social “middleman” delivers a ground for interactions to hold many meanings – a conversation starter, exercising social protocol and etiquette (or lack thereof), the reason for coming together, a reason to take a break, a celebration, a need to be close and a need to connect, and of course – a hunger.
What is the point in eating together?
We eat to survive, but why is eating such a social event?
Through exponential technological developments that allow us to connect more and interact through social media and platforms, why are so many of us choosing to eat online together in a relatively new phenomenon such as Mukbang? How has eating + socialising changed in just the last 20 years? In more recent developments through the current COVID-19 Pandemic, we are now more than ever enjoying each other’s company through the screen – and in personal recent experience, I have now shared meals and drinks over the web in many platforms and services such as Zoom, Google Hangouts and FaceTime.
Mukbang is a commonly used term to describe the practice, art and work of streaming yourself eating online to a live audience that can send you money, requests and comments. ASMR describes the feeling of a tingling sensation or emotional response to certain sounds and stimuli. This Mukbang-ASMR community long preceded the COVID-19 pandemic, as did the beginnings of this project. This project is not about the pandemic – though now it is very easy to correlate these images with the pandemic through all of our shared experience of its effects and the experience of quarantine. I am aware that this pandemic now informs and influences the premise of this exhibition.
The interest in these themes initially grew from a curiosity for the eating videos and content known as ‘ASMR’ (autonomous sensory meridian response) and ‘Mukbang’ (from a derivative Korean term most simply translated as “eating channel”) posted online, particularly shorter clips posted to many accounts on Instagram that are derived from the longer, original versions on YouTube or live-streaming services. This, coupled with a personal struggle to connect to loved ones by use of new media for its complicated and sometimes “inauthentic” forms of expression, has led to explorations of how and why eating and socialising are interrelated, and the forms they can take – online and in reality.
My reference images are a combination of personal photos from my archive and other images that are orchestrated or sourced. When I orchestrate the images to then later paint, it is because there is an element of social eating that I cannot find in my own collection of images. Often this is when I am exploring the hunger and wants/needs elements of social eating, such as sexual desires (in watching online live streams of meal eating), physically unmet emotional needs sought online, and habits or over-stimulations (an addiction to the sensations felt when watching these livestreams). The sourced images for this often come from Mukbang and ASMR livestreams and other eating images online.
One of my paintings titled The New Supper is a parody of Leonardo da Vinci’s The Last Supper. Amongst 12 Mukbang live-streamers, there is a central figure – supposedly the only one to embody the overlap between experiencing the virtual and the real. He sits there, harassed by the noise and activity surrounding him, eating his “The Big Brekkie” from the local café. The painting is large and in three panels, the figures’ proportions only slightly larger than what is realistic. All the 12 Mukbang live-streamers and the central figure sit behind a buffet of their chosen dishes. I would like to invite viewers to pull up a chair and join the feast from across the table.”
– Corinna Howell
Monday 3 – Thursday 27 May 2021
DAILY OPENING HOURS:
Monday – Friday 9:00am – 5:00pm
Saturdays 10:00am – 4:00pm