Heston Blumenthal and the Nature of Art

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A friend sent me some YouTube clips of British chef Heston Blumenthal, and I can’t get the man out of my head. The first was of Blumenthal making look-alike tableware out of food, and the second, his tricking the guests with it. Here’s that second video:

Time could disappear and stomachs can churn as you go through the videos, one clip at a time, watching this man and his unique relationship with food. Not so much with the dessert, I’d be with him for the dessert; I mean things like the dormouse lollipops covered in white chocolate. No, really.

But it brings up the question that arises time and time again: what makes art?

No matter what you think of Heston Blumenthal as a preparer of food for consumption, he is, without question, an artist. He transforms his diners’ ideas of what constitutes food. He pushes the boundaries of what food can look like, how it can behave, what the experience of eating it can be.

Even from a distance of thousands of miles, without a hint of a taste or smell, he’s created an experience for me, the viewer, in watching his diners confront and interpret his food. Above all else, I think Blumenthal is a performance artist, using a process to provoke the emotions of his audience, which isn’t limited to those people eating his creations.

Is his style all flash and mirrors? Perhaps, but if it is, both the flash and mirror are completely edible.

Have a minute? Watch this video.

Rather read? Check out  Her Cousin Much Removed,  The Great Paradox and the Innies and Outies of Time Management and Aunty Ida’s Full-Service Mental Institution (by Invitation Only) .

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The Gifts of G

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G was tricky, given that it’s great letter gorged with possibility. So many words, too good to gloss over. So I’m going with “gifts,” and I discovered something kind of of funny and too good to share.

There are a gaggles of books called “The Gift.” Some have subtitles like the one below, some are simply “The Gift.” Gobs of variety under one title. So that will be the title of both books in the book posts today. The genres? Well, you’ll just have to wait and see the other one.

 


The Gift: Creativity and the Artist in the Modern World (Vintage) by Lewis Hyde. Amazon for $9.15. Discusses the argument that a work of art is essentially a gift and not a commodity. “The best book I know of for talented but unacknowledged creators. . . . A masterpiece.” —Margaret Atwood

“No one who is invested in any kind of art . . . can read The Gift and remain unchanged.” —David Foster Wallace

“Few books are such life-changers as The Gift: epiphany, in sculpted prose.” —Jonathan Lethem

“A manifesto of sorts for anyone who makes art [and] cares for it.” —Zadie Smith

“This long-awaited new edition of Lewis Hyde’s groundbreaking and influential study of creativity is a cause for across-the-board celebration.” —Geoff Dyer

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Boredom is Better than You Believe

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I admit that title was slightly tortured, but it will have to do. It’s a B we all deal with, at some time or another, and the work of artists and writers throughout the centuries can reflect it. More so, creative work may even be shaped by it. See? Being bored isn’t all bad. Hmm. That would have made a better title.


Boredom: A Lively History by Peter Toohey. Amazon for $11.99. In the first book to argue for the benefits of boredom, Peter Toohey dispels the myth that it’s simply a childish emotion or an existential malaise like Jean-Paul Sartre’s nausea. He shows how boredom is, in fact, one of our most common and constructive emotions and is an essential part of the human experience.

This informative and entertaining investigation of boredom—what it is and what it isn’t, its uses and its dangers—spans more than 3,000 years of history and takes readers through fascinating neurological and psychological theories of emotion, as well as recent scientific investigations, to illustrate its role in our lives. There are Australian aboriginals and bored Romans, Jeffrey Archer and caged cockatoos, Camus and the early Christians, Dürer and Degas. Toohey also explores the important role that boredom plays in popular and highbrow culture and how over the centuries it has proven to be a stimulus for art and literature.

Toohey shows that boredom is a universal emotion experienced by humans throughout history and he explains its place, and value, in today’s world. Boredom: A Lively History is vital reading for anyone interested in what goes on when supposedly nothing happens.

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