Visitors to Visionaire art magazine’s “taste bar” in Miami, Florida, are offered postage stamp-sized strips that dissolve like film breath mints. They were developed in conjunction with artists, and the artwork paired with each flavour is displayed menu-like above the bar.
“It’s very Willy Wonka,” said John Steele of Visionaire, likening the exhibit to the scene in Roald Dahl’s Charlie and the Chocolate Factory, where a character experiences a three-course meal in a stick of gum.
Visionaire and New York-based International Flavours & Fragrances Inc spent about a year on the project. The resulting 12 collaborations include Mommy, a condensed milk flavour accompanied by a photo of a woman’s breast by Yoko Ono.
There also are highly conceptual tastes such as Power, the flavour of sea spray and sweat envisioned by surfer Laird Hamilton and accompanied by a photo of his back. Visitors have reacted with delight and disgust to the pairings.
Henry Stolar, 66, said: “This is astounding. It’s a lot more interesting than getting Time or Newsweek in your mailbox.”
Some visitors, however, wanted to know the point of the collaboration. Dieter Kiefer, 55, of Switzerland, was not shy about his distaste for the orange blossom and pepper flavour of Exotic, holding his hand to his chest and coughing.
“There have been all kinds of people lining up to have nastiness placed in their mouth like a communion wafer”
“This one is awful,” he said. Still, he acknowledged that he would remember the experience.
Jenny Holzer, an exhibiting artist, said she was surprised that people were even tasting her creation, Adrenaline – the flavour of jet fuel and metal, paired with a piece of her word art.
“There have been all kinds of people lining up to have nastiness placed in their mouth like a communion wafer,” Holzer said.
Most visitors opted for milder flavours such as Summer, which one woman said reminded her of a cruise she once took.
This is hardly the first time that artists have gone gustatory, according to Alanna Heiss, director of New York‘s PS1 Contemporary Art Centre.
A group called the “Futurists” created whole menus of food. Performance artists have used chocolate and raw meat.
“Food and artists go together,” Heiss said. “You can never find an artist far from a good restaurant.”
Performance artists have used
The edible art is Visionaire’s second collaboration with IFF. In 2003 the two joined to produce an issue of the magazine with 21 fragrances paired with images. The scents included Drunk, Success and Gigabyte, based on the smell of an Apple computer’s packaging.
Cecilia Dean, a founding editor of Visionaire, says she hopes that the magazine will eventually get to another sense.
“Hopefully in a couple years we’ll have a sound issue,” Dean said.
Art with an aftertaste is on display until Monday. It will move to Visionaire’s exhibition space in New York in mid-December and remain on display into early February.