Comfort Food and a Nutella Wall @ GUT INSTINCT

There is a giant Nutella wall.

That would be probably be enough information for me but if you’re still not convinced, I’ll continue on. The Glucksman is an award winning gallery, in a picturesque location, on one of the best and most esteemed college campuses in the world. The Times of London has said that ‘The Glucksman is simply the best piece of public architecture in Ireland for decades’. Trust me, it’s beautiful. And while I was lucky enough to get to visit the gallery, I was also blessed with being able to take in everything that the exhibit ‘GUT INSTINCT: Art, food and feeling’, had to offer.

The main thought behind Gut Instinct is food, and what we put into our bodies, has an entirely different effect on our emotions and how we feel than we previously thought. Food effects our emotions? This isn’t news to most people, eat something yummy and then you’re happy. In fact one scientific study even proved that we tend to eat comfort food when we’re happy and feel we deserve a reward. However, when we’re happy and don’t think of food as a reward we tend to eat healthier. This exhibit shows the raw side of our emotions and the visceral effects of what we consume. 

Let’s go straight to the sweet spot and talk about this wall of Nutella, okay. Comfort food at its best. I usually save this word for unicorns and David Attenborough, but Thomas Rentmeister’s wall of Nutella is truly magnificent (pictured above). The sheer size of the canvas is eye grabbing enough but to top it all off, if you’re not standing within a few feet of the piece you soon will be as you begin to follow and become enveloped in the chocolate and hazelnut smell. Rentmeister’s piece is actually still Untitled, but every inch of the large canvas is covered in thick, textured layer of sweetness. There is something very deeply satisfying about looking at the piece and the rest can be said for Rentmeister’s other work. Adjacent to the Nutella wall is another of his pieces which can only be described as a very large blob of chocolate. The piece is both enticing and revolting when seen on such a large scale. This piece was  made with polyester resin and cannot be consumed. And not for lack of trying. 

blob of chocolate
Giant ball of Chocolate, Thomas Rentmeister at the Glucksman Art Gallery. Photo Breda O’Connell

The one piece from the exhibit that certainly had the most immediate and vocal reactions was Marina Abramovic’s short film titled, ‘The Onion’. In the 10 minute film, we get to see Marina Abramovic eat an entire raw onion. With the skin. The performance description given by the artist is ‘I eat a large onion with the skin, with my eyes looking up to the sky and complaining about my life’. It really does what it says on the tin here. However, our sense of taste can be a powerful thing. It has the power of triggering old memories or even inciting new ones. Obviously the connection between onions and the physical act of crying is also familiar. Onions release and enzyme called Lachrymatory-factor synthase that reacts with an amino acid in the onion to release Syn-propanethial-S-oxide into the air which irritates our lachrymal glands and cause us to cry. Eating a whole raw onion would be uncomfortable to say the least, but Abramovic’s unflinching resilience even when she is in such visual pain and discomfort, truly is the driving force that illuminates the trials in her life that she is discussing in the piece.

marina abramovic eating onion
Marina Abramovic eating an Onion, Glucksman Art Gallery, photo Breda O’Connell

In Abigail O’Brien’s piece entitled, ‘With Bread’, we take a closer look at one of the most common food items, bread. O’Brien’s work takes up almost two walls of the gallery displaying photos of all the more distasteful stages in the bread making process. We are shown photographs of scratched, dingy, old bread machines, churning out black and brown condiments. And centred in-between the two walls of bread-like horror are three tables, elegantly displaying an assortment of silver incrusted breads. From slice pans, pretzels, scones and baguettes. This piece is heavily open to interpretation but it can be seen as a play on the idea that you have to get down and dirty to be able to make something beautiful. Which is very Disney and nice. But alas, it could also be seen as a statement on how even the most common food item like bread is now made in such a mechanic and unwholesome way.  As well, seeing bread that is probably valued at way more than your house is a sight to behold.

table of silver bread
Abigail O’Brien’s ‘With bread’, Glucksman Art Gallery, Photo Breda O’Connell

Gut Instinct: Art, food and feeling has a lot to offer. The range of different art forms alone is enough to hold anyone’s attention. This exhibit is perfect for people who simply like to view art and also for people who like to understand art. From gold incrusted bread, to a giant Nutella canvas, to a hypnotic film of pain and onions. This three floor experience has work worth seeing on every level. When you see the ‘Untitled’ Nutella  wall, you will want to spread the word too.