Tuesday, October 2, 2007
Rosler Vs Childs
Semiotics of the Kitchen adopts the form of a parodic cooking demonstration in which, Rosler states, "An anti-Julia Child replaces the domesticated `meaning' of tools with a lexicon of rage and frustration." In this performance-based work, a static camera is focused on a woman in a kitchen. On a counter before her are a variety of utensils, each of which she picks up, names and proceeds to demonstrate, but with gestures that depart from the normal uses of the tool. In an ironic grammatology of sound and gesture, the woman and her implements enter and transgress the familiar system of everyday kitchen meanings -- the securely understood signs of domestic industry and food production erupt into anger and violence. In this alphabet of kitchen implements, states Rosler, "when the woman speaks, she names her own oppression."
From A to Z, Rosler "shows and tells" the ingredients of the housewife's day, giving us a tour that names and mimics the ordinary with movements more samurai than suburban. Rosler's slashing gesture as she forms the letters of the alphabet in the air with a knife and fork, is a rebel gesture, punching through the "system of harnessed subjectivity" from the inside out.
"I was concerned with something like the notion of 'language speaking the subject,' and with the transformation of the woman herself into a sign in a system of signs that represent a system of food production, a system of harnessed subjectivity."
"Semiotics of the Kitchen" (1975) is a video by Martha Rosler. The setup of this video is simple: a woman (Rosler) stands in a generic kitchen behind a table covered with cooking implements. She puts on an apron and verbally identifies it as such to the camera. Rosler then presents every item on her table to the camera and demonstrates how each instrument can be used. Most viewers do not realize until the end that her list of objects is in alphabetical order, with one item representing every letter of the alphabet (apron, bowl, chopper, dish, etc.), with the exception of the final six letters. While Rosler maintains a neutral tone of voice and minimal facial expressions, her body language is quite jarring as she demonstrates unproductive and violent ways to wield the instruments. Her treatment of objects is counter-intuitive, as if each one is to be used for destructive purposes as opposed to the productive act of cooking.
Julia Child (August 15, 1912–August 13, 2004) was a famous American cook, author, and television personality who introduced French cuisine and cooking techniques to the American mainstream through her many cookbooks and television programs. Her most famous works are the 1961 cookbook Mastering the Art of French Cooking and, showcasing her sui generis television persona, the series The French Chef, which premiered in 1963.
Child was a favorite of audiences from the moment of her television debut on public television in 1963 and her personage – a striking hybrid of gravitas and camp – was a familiar part of American culture and the subject of numerous references. In 1966, she was featured on the cover of Time magazine with the heading, "Our Lady of the Ladle". In a 1978 Saturday Night Live sketch, she was affectionately parodied by Dan Aykroyd, continuing with a cooking show despite profuse bleeding from a cut to the thumb. Jean Stapleton portrayed her in a 1989 musical, Bon Appétit!, based on one of her televised cooking lessons. She was also the inspiration for a character, "Julia Grownup", on the Children's Television Workshop program, The Electric Company (1971-1977) and was portrayed or parodied in many other television programs and skits.