[-empyre-] October topic: This Mess We're In

Lindsay Kelley l.kelley at unsw.edu.au
Thu Oct 4 12:14:52 AEST 2018

Tarsh and Laura, how wonderful to join you in this space.

I am grateful to both of you for your care and kindness putting this ambitious exhibition together. 

The work I've sent over is called Dysphagiac, and it's about tube feeding. It's a speculative kitchen appliance and a performance prop, meant to give you a cute, clean/laminar flow space in your kitchen to prepare tube food. It also looks like a mouth/esophagus, and fails at laminar flow because it has all these fiddly folds. I do a cleaning bit when I perform with it. 

I made it while reflecting on my grandfather's dying process, which was aided/precipitated by a GI tube. At that time (2008), most people on tubes consumed shelf stable canned liquids--my grandfather's were made by Nestle--and people who created their own "real food" for the tube in the kitchen were very brave and rebellious (lucysrealfood.com was the most prolific web community about this). Not thinking about it as art, I made a bunch of this food for my grandfather. I froze it, put it in my suitcase, and brought it from California to Denver. I put it in my grandparents' fridge at their assisted living apartment. I showed my grandma how to heat it up. At some point after I dropped it off, my grandmother threw it away, and it became an art project. 

I realised my grandfather was never going to "eat" this because it wasn't endorsed by his doctor and it was in Ziploc bags and everyone felt anxious and weird about him putting actual carrots through a tube into his stomach, but somehow felt really comfortable putting shelf stable canned crap through there. So, that was weird, and required some art making to think about the weirdness. I wondered what might make it OK to prepare this food.

Some years later I had an opportunity to be an artist in residence for a few days (the vacation allowance I had from my day job). I made this appliance during that residency (at the Jackman Humanities Institute University of Toronto). I was honoured to work alongside Joshna Maharaj preparing and serving liquid food and non-liquid versions of the same food for a lovely group of people attached to UT and the JHI.

Now, there are more professional, medically valid, not-amateur options for "real food" for the tube. I'm happy to see that, and I like that this object marks a specific moment.

I appreciate Laura's reflection on her education in Frankenstein. I can't remember when I first read it. I suspect I saw movies before reading, and "Young Frankenstein" was of my cultural moment. Reading it again for Quite Frankly, I find myself interested in the monster as an embodiment of the affective experience of birth, living, and care. I want to know more about the monster's death. Victor is indeed such a dick, so I'm excited for Mike's work too. I rewatched Twilight while prepping some of this work, and I think Victor and Edward deserve some kind of crossover universe encounter. Or maybe Bella and the monster should join forces and create a healing retreat center, after Bella's divorce.

I'm looking forward to this month's conversation, and thanks as ever to Renate for her work keeping this list alive.

Take care,


Dr. Lindsay Kelley
UNSW Art & Design
UNSW Sydney 
Paddington Campus
Cnr Oxford St & Greens Rd,  
Paddington, NSW 2021 
T:  +61 2 8936 0780
E:  l.kelley at unsw.edu.au
Bioart Kitchen http://goo.gl/SJRdFn 

I pay my respects and acknowledgments to all Traditional Custodians on whose land I live, work and travel through.


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