Published by the Archive of Modern Conflict and Galerie Ben Alors
Limited edition of 300 copies, signed and numbered
Hardcover, 2x 16 pages
2 hardcover menus
1 softcover text menu
1 menu holder
4 offset prints
2 original playing cards
Is it a book, is it a sculpture? No, it’s a Me Nu. The latest work by Ruben Lundgren and Timothy Prus has been produced to coincide with their exhibition “Anything that walks” held at the Jimei x Arles International Photo Festival, November 2018. Like photography itself a menu explores the nature of taste and style. Sweet, salty, sour, fatty and bitter are all found in this deranged menu. New and unexpected combinations of flavour unhinge the imagination. All the pictures relate to Chinese food culture and are vernacular in the sense they were not made as art. The food most certainly was.
The time span covered in this menu is the second half of the 20th century. Photographs from food science and agriculture rub shoulders with shots from cooking competitions, cookery books and family photo albums. The highs and especially the lows of Chinese food photography are considered in depth from the Great Wall of China made of spam to fridge advertising images where even the freezers are stuffed with delicacies. Never mind if you don’t own a restaurant, Me Nu is a must for all lovers of food photography. The source photos are from the Archive of Modern Conflict who crafted the piece in association with Galerie Ben Alors. It comes in its own bespoke menu holder with a complimentary set of tooth picks.
The diversity and imagination within Chinese cuisine has fascinated and influenced the entire planet. In China anything that walks, swims, crawls or flies with its back to heaven is most likely to be eaten. Over the last few decades the country’s obsession with food has created an inspiring track of anonymous photographs and photo albums, from black and white pictures of birthday cakes in the 1960s to a great wall of ham in the 1990s.
The visual culture we live in today allows us to make a slideshow or powerpoint presentation within minutes. Pictures of food are taken and shared on wechat or whatsapp in a heartbeat and when dinner is served the camera eats first. It is easily forgotten how difficult and labor- intensive it used to be to present ones ideas in a photographic way. Owning a camera and film were just the first hurdle. After a shoot prints were made in a darkroom, sometimes hand-coloured and finally cut and pasted into albums. The process itself invites you to be creative.
Interesting enough this creativity and inventiveness did not always have an artistic intention. It could for example be commercial, political, scientific or just pure amateurism that led to specific visual decisions. A lot of these non-artistic albums, catalogues and prints are part of a fascinating and often overlooked collective Chinese memory that we explore in this exhibition. Most materials are extracted from the collection of the Archive of Modern Conflict sourced by Thomas Sauvin and Ruben Lundgren over the last 8 years. The exhibition playfully explores and celebrates the role of food within contemporary Chinese history in a visual explosion of photographs.
November 2018, Xiamen, China