Eat Art: Joseph Beuys, Dieter Roth, Sonja Alhäuser

, Busch-Reisinger Museum, Harvard University Art Museums
The socket of a light bulb affixed to a lemon, and accompanying square wooden box

Busch-Reisinger Museum, Harvard University Art Museums

Throughout the 20th century, food has been used as an artistic medium in sculpture, painting, collage, and performance. From the art of the Dadaists in the 1920s to the international Fluxus group in the 1970s and contemporary artists, edible materials have been a powerful means for speaking about consumption, politics, or art making itself. Eat Art joins three German artists: Joseph Beuys (1921–1986), Dieter Roth (1930–1998), and Sonja Alhäuser (b. 1969), each of whom has used food as a medium to address concerns of social change, satire, or pleasure.

Joseph Beuys treated materials such as honey, tea, and margarine as social curatives endowed with various nonphysical properties through his complex and personal system of symbols and metaphors. Swiss-German artist Dieter Roth used food to visualize the dimension of time as well as to integrate chance as a factor in art making. He liked the idea that the work had a life of its own and that the process of physical decay could be neither predicted nor controlled. Working with chocolate, Düsseldorf artist Sonja Alhäuser will contribute a site-specific work. Interested in erasing the boundary between the audience and the artwork via the interaction of eating, Alhäuser encourages the visitor to actually consume her work. In contrast to Beuys’s and Roth’s work, where food becomes inedible, even poisonous, Alhäuser’s food sculptures encourage hedonistic enjoyment. All three artists, however, use food as a unified call for the conflation of art with everyday life.

Organized by Tanja Maka, Michalke Curatorial Intern at the Busch-Reisinger Museum, under the direction of Peter Nisbet, Daimler-Benz Curator of the Busch-Reisinger Museum. A brochure accompanies this exhibition.