Journal article Open Access
Starting from a discussion of artworks from the 1960s until today in which food has been used as material, this paper explores the possibilities and limitations of Gibson’s concept of “affordances” for analyzing them from the viewpoint of an image-theory oriented art history. Three modes of using food as an art material are discussed, each highlighting different aspects of the affordance concept: in the first mode, the edibility affordance of food is maintained despite its change of context (everyday/art); the second mode primarily focuses on food’s symbolic properties and shows the importance of the respective framework and contextual conditions for the non-actualization of the edibility affordance; in the third mode, organic properties in the sense of food’s mutability, even to the point of decay, play an essential role in the challenge as to what edibility affordance actually is. Against this background, this article addresses the material dimension of the case studies discussed, with regard to the question of their image. In this context, it can be said of the first mode of food as an art material that it is a processual form of image in which the relationship between material and form is co-determined by the direct interaction of the public. In the second mode, the public does not directly intervene in the artwork: its image is rather determined by the viewer’s own spatial relationship to it. The third mode is also about a processual image: the food, however, changes the relationship between form and material of the artwork by virtue of its own dynamics. It will become clear that the discussion of affordances depends not only on the basic conditions of the artistic context, but first and foremost on the definition of what constitutes the affordance of something.