What Do You Say About The Egg Roll?
By Yonatan H. Mishal, Erev Rav: Online Magazine for Art, Culture and Society
"My hummus is made of polyurethane. This foam is toxic, it is not edible. I added diamonds and rings, which would be attractive and interesting. In reality people eat food which is not less toxic with great pleasure. Especially people who don’t have food." A meal and conversation with Shahar Tuchner following his exhibition "Ish Tabach Shmo" at Koresh Gallery, Jerusalem
Shahar Tuchner, we meet in an Asian restaurant in Neve Sha'anan to talk about your exhibition at Koresh Gallery, you wanted us to have the interview during a meal.
"And now I look at all kinds of special foods here that you do not see everywhere and I thought that I knew, I don’t know anything here. Let's take an egg roll."
Let's hear about the exhibition.
"With my luck, right at the opening there will be some war. You'll see, every time that's what happens. For example, my mother thought of moving to Eilat. 'Let's see what happens there, it's nice there, you feel there in a vacation, the weather is hot and dry, not like the humidity of Tel Aviv.' And I was just thinking what I would do there, in Eilat. I said, at the worst case I'll go diving. The next day, rockets have fallen there and one fell into the pool. When we finally go on a vacation, something happens.
"And this is a different exhibition. In an exhibition you expect to see lots of imagery. Here they also exist, because that's what I do, like the work about the hummus I made of polyurethane foam that I showed you in the studio. But in this exhibition it’s less overflowing with imagery. It’s more about the placing of food in space."
The whole exhibition deals with food?
"Yes, food. Many of the things that I do are related to food. Ask why."
"Because that's what surrounds me in life, at home. We eat, we order food. We watch a movie, we eat popcorn."
That means food is an issue.
"Yes. There are also many things that I don’t eat. I was in Denmark and they don’t spray food or put antibiotics. When you eat it, the taste is different. When I returned to Israel and ate, I felt that it was like making orange juice from orange, but with added water and syrup. So this is the taste here."
Artificial. So let's talk about food. About the matter of eating.
"A lot of associations connect to food, even to the making of food. I want to buy this cooking device where hot dogs are rolling. The hot dogs that you cook on it are always better. In the oven
they become dry. In the pot they are filled with water. If you fry in a pan, it's not that. But on that cooking device, they roll, they’re juicy. Why shouldn’t I have one? It also makes me laugh how they roll."
Are these devices in the exhibition?
"No. But that an idea for following work, the rolling hot dogs. Perhaps a house made of rolling hot dogs. Maybe you get on the device and it rolls you like a hot dog."
You also have a lot of works that are not about food. Why did you focus on that?
"I wanted an exhibition that brings together many works that talk about food from different aspects, different cultures. Such as the American Bonfire associated with the American culture of marshmallows, while the marshmallow is originally French. Marshmallow is sugar with gelatin, a dessert that was taken to the fairs and amusement parks. I took three ceramic tubes, I painted them in blue as if they were Indian logs and combined them with marshmallows. The same thing about popcorn, which connects directly to movies, for some reason in the cinema you sit and eat it."
Here in Neve Sha'anan there is a ceremony called "Buna" in the cafes, where the Eritrean women roast and make the coffee and serve it with some popcorn. I asked one of them why popcorn, and she answered "why not" and explained that there was no reason for that.
"I'll try the egg roll, it looks great. It's hot! Wow, very hot! Sorry, I did not hear, what did you say? What do you say about the egg roll?"
"Eggroll is not really Chinese, it is American and made a journey back to China to become Chinese. Fortune cookies were invented in San Francisco and it became a tradition. Chinese-American food is not Chinese. And now because of Israelis like you, who don’t eat with chopsticks, they developed this thing, which is like noodles in a bread roll. It’s like putting gefilte fish in a pita."
If you do an artwork about hummus, do you eat hummus? Is it like entering a character? Identifying with your food?
"It's more like thinking like hummus."
How do you think like hummus?
"I'm thinking about the process of making hummus, what things you put inside. How do you make industrial hummus? On the one hand they beautify the packaging, do commercials that say it tastes good. On the other hand, unhealthy and inexpensive substances are added to it, which improve the taste."
How do you refer to it in your works?
"My hummus is made of polyurethane. This foam is toxic, it is not edible. And I don’t prevent anyone from trying, it’s not my responsibility, there are also people who eat glass. I added diamonds and rings, which would be attractive and interesting. Next to the hummus there are laffas that I print on fabric. The work of Pot-Split is also filled with polyurethane foam. You can not eat it, because it is also toxic. But in reality people eat food which is not less toxic with great pleasure. Especially people who don’t have food, or belong to a lower social status. Look at the grocery stores around here, they’re selling instant lunch products, which have low nutritional value, if they have any value at all. They are actually salt with a few empty carbohydrates. But the taste... it’s delicious! And people buy it for their children, for lunch, eat it at work. It's enough for me, thank you. And it surprises me that it's not nutritious in any way. But in the end it is filling."
It is filling, but it is not nutritious.
"When I made the popcorn screen, I shopped in a place that sells spices and such, and bought four kilos of popcorn. Just like that, in bags, I went from Herzliya Central Station. I put on an apron, took a garbage bag, and started filling bags of popcorn. I became a master in preparing popcorn."
Cooked popcorn lasts forever? It is non-biodegradable.
"If they get wet, they pop. If you put them in the sun, they peel off. Under ideal conditions nothing happens to them."
I’m sure people at the exhibition will be hungry. Will there be food?
"Obviously, seeds and popcorn. Maybe I'll serve a soup with nails and call it Nail Soup. During the Holocaust, in the ghetto, my grandfather worked in a carpentry shop. He would take a large pot, add nails, because the shoes would fall apart. And he would ask people if they want a lot of soup or less. If they asked for more, he would take from the bottom, as if it was more. And he would add nails that sank to the bottom. It was forbidden, and that's how he would smuggle the nails."
You said food, you said Holocaust.
"I was very connected to my grandmother on my father's side. When she was in the ghetto, one time a bag of fish was hung from the fence. They took it and cooked a meal. Since then I have been imagining this situation. I think, after all, they had to live from a piece of bread. How can you live like that? I don't know. It's like a miracle, and they had nothing to wear."
Do you feel lucky that you always have food on your table?
"Yes. Sometimes people have nothing to eat. It's hard anyway for people to consume art, because
there are always more important things, for example food. Restaurants are always more successful than art."
If you had to decide between restaurant and art, what would you decide?
"Whether to go to a restaurant or an exhibition? Depends on whose exhibition, I would not go to anyone, because it's a pity to waste not eating. Or maybe if you need to compare a slice of pizza to a work of art? You tell yourself, wow, I could have eaten this pizza now. You know what, I would finish the exhibition and go eat some ice cream. To finish with a good taste."
"Ish Tabach Shmo”, Shahar Tuchner, Koresh Gallery, Jerusalem
End date: 23.09.17