The work will be exhibited using mixed media installation: photography, video and performance, to create an immersive experience. A long banquet table will be set with fine china, hand embroidered napkins and the ornate centerpiece at the head of the table displaying the guest of honour, the rabbit.
The rabbit sits at the head of the table on an elaborate three-tier floral centerpiece dripping with tendrils of flowers and berries, signifying the entrails and internal organs. The centerpiece is referencing the baroque tradition of Frans Snyders (1579–1657) a Flemish baroque banquet still-life painter who painted animal carcasses displayed on opulent banquet tables.
Each of the linen napkins on the table was hand embroidered by Mavis with detailed diagrams of the skinning process. Guests at the table used the napkins reinforcing the connections of how our dinner was served. The hand-sewn napkins are also a signifier to the act of stitching the rabbit.
The surrounding walls will display large glossy photographic prints documenting the entire process. When exhibiting the work, the images will be enlarged to 13”x 19” allowing the viewer to see the detail in large glossy colour elevating the hidden craft to art.
Two waiters circulate through the space holding silver trays offering a sampling of the menu, allowing guests to be part of the performance and also to experience the connection to where their food comes from. After witnessing the process of how our food gets to the table, the act of eating the animal in the photographs might be a challenging one to a vast majority of the audience. On the back wall of the gallery space will be the menu, print transferred on the wall and beneath the menu there will be a video projection of a time-lapse movie of the feast.
Lapin charcuterie, confit rillette, served with red heirloom pickled carrots pea shoots and rosemary garlic crostini
Malbec braised rabbit tartlet
Beetroot, black radish, red cabbage, mizuna and crème fraiche topped with pulled saddle of rabbit served with a balsamic molasses and pomegranate jewels
Parmesan encrusted fried leg of rabbit with roast winter vegetable velouté
Rabbit head and rosewater Champaign jelly with pomegranate stain and embedded skull
Materials: rabbit, polyethylene mannequin, glass eyes, clay, linen, embroidery floss, bone china, crystal, silver, a variety of flowers, photographs, video projection.
Audience Engagement and Ways of Seeing
Field to Feast engages its audience on many levels, from the sense of curiosity and wonder inspired by taxidermy to the visceral reaction to the dissection and the recognition and the ritual of eating. This work dissects the process of how we get our food from field to table. Although the installation examines traditional practices of hunting and butchery, it can be read as shocking and disturbing to some. When animals and death are incorporated into art it often makes for difficult to digest, controversial and compelling subject matter. These compelling nuances and varied readings are what make taxidermy so interesting to look at.
Field to Feast shifts the perception of the taxidermic animal from natural history specimen towards animal as artifact. By removing the illusion that a taxidermied animal is part of nature, taking taxidermy out of the diorama and into the dinning room and presenting explicit documentation of the process of skinning, scrapping, curing and mounting, the artists allow the viewer to step into the often-cloaked world of taxidermy. The rabbit in Mavis and Robinson’s work was placed at the head of the dinning table. With the plating and presentation of each of the five courses, the dinner guests would stop and ask what part of the rabbit they were eating and would often gaze back to the taxidermic mounted skins of the animal on their plate. Drawing on Baroque Flemish master Frans Snyders (1579–1657), who painted large still lives, focusing on dead game and animals displayed on lavish feast tables. The rabbit was placed on a three-tier floral centerpiece dripping with tendrils of flowers and berries, signifying the entrails and internal organs. Traditionally in Flemish paintings, the carcass of dead animals would be presented at the table, representing the beauty of the animal and the opulence and wealth of the host. Much as the Wunderkammer presented unseen wonders to gain knowledge and understanding, Field to Feast brings taxidermy to the table and allows the participants to partake in a more mindful way of eating.
Mavis and Robinson are continuing on their hunt for a connection with nature, and are underway with acquiring a lamb for a larger feast. Barnyard animals are not often elevated and memorialized with taxidermy. Their skins are left on the abattoir floor. However in this work hoofs to head are utilized in the feast, and the dinner guests are presented with jellies using the gelatin from the bones and tarts topped with bone marrow pie vents. If Field to Feast had solely a sustainable intent, the skins would be used to fabricate clothing or other usable wares. A taxidermy animal’s only use is decorative display. No scientific information can be gained from a mounted animal, due to the human reworking of the skins and form. When documenting skinning, taxidermy and butchery, the gore can overshadow the craft. Most North Americans are not use to seeing their food broken down, or seeing the fat and tendons removed.
Field to Feast recontextualizes taxidermy and butchery once viewed as the domain of man brought out of the hunting camp and into the dinning room: The skinning was done on a vintage linen table cloth by two women in a Victorian parlor, rather than a taxidermy studio, garage or abattoir. By subverting these gender roles, it allows the perception of taxidermy and butchery to be skewed from a violent, gruesome practice of dominion over nature to a more artistic activity undertaken with thoughtful intent.
By incorporating hunting, taxidermy and the process of menu building and cooking, Field to Feast appeals to individuals with various backgrounds. This ongoing installation continues to engage all audiences that experience the work from horror and revulsions to enthusiasm and positive discussions.
Field to Feast does what most would not do to obtain food, Mavis and Robinson step out of the No Frills and into the fields.