If it does not kill you, it fattens you
If it does not kill you, it fattens you, Spazio Nibe, Milan, Italy – 2016
Roberto Cambi’s piece, the aptly named ‘Se non ammazza, ingrassa’ (if it does not kill you, it fattens you), debuted at ‘Parole, Cibo, Ceramica – viaggio tra mondi trasversali’ at the Spazio Nibe in Milan.
Originally the display was a lot more ambitious: it was conceived to give viewers the opportunity of helping themselves to real food inside the ceramic body, a sort of collective act of cannibalism to better represent the greed of our times.
Containing approx. 70 items.
A SHORT Q&A WITH ART SURGERY
AS: How long did it take you to plan and finish this piece?
RC: It took me about two solid months from the first sketch to finishing it.
AS: The inspiration for this work comes from a futurist manifesto of the 1930s. How important is it to know all the background details when looking at this work of yours?
RC: The Curator of ‘Parole, Cibo, Ceramica’ showed it side by side with the ‘Manifesto della Cucina Futurista’ by Marinetti and Fillia to help viewers explore the literary inspiration for this piece and the connection to the theme of the exhibition. It added an extra layer, but it is not by any means necessary to understand what it is about.
RC: I wanted to distance myself from well known labels to leave more space for creativity and allow the viewers more freedom of association: different countries have different names for virtually the same products. Therefore brand names would have been more of a distraction. It made it also easier to introduce cheeky items like plastic tuna or alien pills.
RC: It’s the expression of someone who has just realised that they are hooked on junk food, shocked by the extent of the addiction and in denial about the sheer amount already eaten.
RC: Reactions have been diverse. Some visitors have been attracted by the complexity and visual excess of this work. People have pointed out that we all are part of a virtual battery farm and it takes a lot of effort even to notice what we are fed. Some have simply remarked that it is not easy to stick to a healthy lifestyle.
My intention was to highlight the importance of food and its nature not just in terms of nourishment, but also as an expression of the culture and the identity of people.
RC: No, there isn’t a deliberate layout. I placed all the objects randomly. A sort of spare room where all the junk of the house seems to end up.
RC: No, items are not removable, but I am creating some additional smaller pieces to complete and expand this work in time for the next exhibition. They will be displayed on cake stands and inside soup bowls.
RC: Most of my work is influenced by Pop Art as I like that irreverent, mocking and downright flippant element of it. With this installation I decided to combine a lighthearted visual aspect and a more serious dig at our eating habits which are appalling.
Food for thought: we wanted to distance ourselves from the dishes of our grandparents because we judged them as too simple, inadequate, not modern, so we embraced expensive, but nutritionally poor junk food. Now we spend a huge amount of money sourcing unadulterated food for a healthier and more balance diet, which was what we had in the first place. And what about the juxtaposition of diet and social background?