Test Diptych. James Bellorini 2020.

In 1999, Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, wrote an article called Playing To The Senses: Food as a Performance Medium. She proposes that performance is a process of doing, behaving, and showing and that there is a juncture with aspects of food and food practices. ‘Food, and all that is associated with it, is already larger than life. It is already highly charged with meaning and affect. It is already performative and theatrical. An art of the concrete, food, like performance, is alive, fugitive, and sensory.’ (Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, 1999).

This is an exciting distillation of thought in relation to my practice over the past 18 months. It also resonates with the recent decision to focus more on food as a metaphor of belonging for my FMP.

In the context of my project theme, those three descriptors (alive, fugitive, sensory) are very interesting. Especially the notion of the fugitive. Something that is both fleeting or quick to disappear, and a person who is escaping something. This makes for an intriguing context for my project progress and current thinking.

It is also something that I saw for myself growing up as the son of a chef. The performative was present at an ‘operatic’ level. Especially around food preparation and delivery. Charged and very sensory. Indeed, Kirshenblatt-Gimblett refers in her article to ‘the performing kitchen.’ (Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, 1999).

Looking back at work I’ve created to date, this sense of food as performance is strong. Even if I wasn’t especially conscious of it at the time of making.

So, how is this playing out in my working approach at the moment?

As I’ve started to make new work, I can see that there is a performative-culinary process occurring. A gathering of ‘ingredients’ whether these be people, objects, or locations. A generative process of preparation – adding, tasting, removing as needed. The presentation of the work itself in the moment of making of images. Then in the considerations of editing and potential output. Underneath all these, I see, akin to performance, the enactment of ritual elements and motifs. Photography has this running through it anyway. It is a revelatory process after all. This is an important awareness in terms of my working approach.


Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, B. (1999). Playing To The Senses: Food as a Performance Medium. Article in: on Cooking, Performance Research Volume 4. London, Routledge.

Loose Associations Volume 5. Ed. Plowright, N. The Photographer’s Gallery 2019.