Iconophagy- Edible Mosaics

Ali&Cia's edible mosaics are images created out of canapé-style servings of food of various colours and textures. Alicia's first edible artwork, her wedding meal, perhaps reveals the origins of the practice. Rather than creating a representation out of a single food item, as is the case with theme cakes, various dishes were brought together to form edible sculptures of Alicia and her groom. As in this wedding meal, edible mosaics are usually commissioned to celebrate the rites of passage of individuals, associations and communities such as inaugurations and anniversaries. Food already plays an important symbolic role in such functions, a role which the edible mosaics highlight and extend.

The offering and acceptance of food as part of hospitality is a ritual that constitutes a kind of social contract, engendering goodwill. Sharing food facilitates communication and social adhesion, creating a sense of community and membership. At a party, it effects the participation and integration of those present in the act of celebration. Rituals related to food often provide the central focus of a celebration, as in the presentation of a birthday cake accompanied by singing. The ritualistic consumption of the cake is the symbolic consummation of the celebration.

Ali&Cia's edible mosaics draw upon and develop the symbolic role of food in these events by transforming it into a pictorial representation of the celebration. They choose an appropriate image in consultation with those commissioning the work. Sometimes an organisation or company's logo is represented and sometimes a painting or sculpture is the inspiration. Careful consideration is given to the palette of foods to be employed. A variety of colours, textures, forms and flavours is always offered and distributed to best represent the sensory elements depicted.

Athena in Thought, 1996, 1997, 2002

The 5th century BC Greek low relief sculpture of Athena was first rendered edible in Alicia's sensory concert Australianas Mediterraneas in 1996 and then later recreated for the Fair of the Five Senses in London, as the main element of the edible section. Both these events were linked with Alicia's promotion of olive oil. Athena was chosen as the subject of the work because in Greek mythology she is attributed with presenting humankind with the olive tree and she is a potent symbol of Mediterranean culture. The food used to create the mosaic was ancient Greek with prominent use of olive oil and the work was accompanied by images of olive oil culture, iconography and production.

Iconophagy - An Edible Mosaic, 2000

For the Espacio Cultural Tecla Sala

Here the mosaic was a representation of the plan of the building, which was once a factory. The drink service area was a recreation of the building's tower.

Pictofagia of 'Hotel Room' by Edward Hopper, 2003

For a function organised by FITUR (International Tourism Fair) in the Museo Thyssen-Bornemisza, Edward Hopper's Hotel Room, a painting in the Thyssen collection, was chosen to be represented.

Logotipofagia Fundación ONCE, 2006

For the 1st Biennial of Contemporary Art of the ONCE Foundation in the Círculo de Bellas Artes, Madrid.

The ONCE foundation, Spain's national foundation for the visually impaired, commissioned Ali&Cia to create an edible mosaic for the inauguration of their 1st Biennial of Contemporary Art. All the works of the exhibition were chosen for their appeal to a visually impaired audience. Many were designed to be touched. Ali&Cia's multi-sensory work was an obvious choice.

The Foundation's logo, the superimposed outlines of two hands and an eye rendered in four colours, was chosen to be represented. Bárbara Ortíz designed a tower of four Plexiglas platforms, upon which were laid the mosaics of the hands and eye.

L’Apocalypse a du Goût - Ceremony of Tapestryphagy, 2008

Presented by Open-Arts at Le Quai, Angers, France

Gastronomic consultant: Professor Barbara Santich, University of Adelaide, Australia.

Celebrating the end of Open-Arts at Le Quai’s first season of programming, Ali&Cia’s edible tapestry offered a taste of things to come. In fact, the event was an aperitif for a large-scale project planned for spring 2009: An edible historical map of Angers to be created with local communities. It will pay tribute to the city’s rich biodiversity and culinary heritage and form part of the 600th anniversary celebrations of the birth of King René of Anjou (1409- 1480), whose introduction of numerous plants to Angers during the Middle Ages was in some ways the origin of the town’s development as an important centre of horticultural research.

For the aperitif Ali&Cia chose to reinterpret a detail of the Tapestry of the Apocalypse (finished c. 1382), the largest tapestry cycle in the world. It was commissioned by King René’s grandfather, Duke Louis of Anjou, for the castle of Angers, where King René was later born. After a chequered history, the tapestries are once again housed in the castle and it was here that the Ceremony of Tapestryphagy was held.

The detail chosen, the Mystic Lamb on Mt Zion, was recreated almost exclusively with ingredients and dishes contemporary to the time of the original Tapestry of the Apocalypse and King René: the late Middle Ages. There was thus a notable absence of all ingredients brought later from the New World: tomatoes, potatoes, peppers, corn and so on.

But medieval cuisine had its own innovations and King René himself contributed to the expansion of culinary influences. The growth in trade meant the arrival of new ingredients and new techniques, especially from the East via the Moorish presence in Spain. Rare and expensive spices were used to demonstrate wealth and class and denote celebration. Instead of being added to all dishes they were used selectively in small, concentrated quantities so that their presence would be unmistakable, for example in the strong sauces that always accompanied roast meats and were used thus in the tapestry. Another striking characteristic of medieval cuisine from a contemporary perspective is the manner in which sweet and savoury ingredients were combined and sweet and savoury dishes were served together at the table.

Ali&Cia diverged from medieval cuisine and custom in two significant respects. Firstly, while medieval diners did not use cutlery or plates, here they were provided for convenience. Although, just as in medieval times meat was served on a large slice of bread instead of a plate, many of the dishes in the edible tapestry were also served on bread. Secondly, Ali&Cia took the artistic liberty of interpreting the lamb of Christ in croissants, in a further homage to King René, founder of the Order of the Croissant.

The edible tapestry was created with the help of chef Nicolas Morinière and his students at the CCI Maine-et-Loire: Alicia Bizien, Maxime Boutier, Romain Butet, Charlie Cesbron, Julia Cohu, Pierre-Manuel Diaz, Sylvain Le Bras, Florian Le Queré, Gewnaëlle Lelias, Tony Lux and Guillaume Martineau.

Thanks also to Jonathan Berthelot, Dalila Cantoral, Aurélien Garreau, Caroline Gaudin, Jason Hindre, Youness Lamrhouti, Mélanie Tourneux, André Tourneux and all the team at Open-Arts.

Download Flyer


Avec Alicia, l'Apocalypse… a du gout(download pdf)

Le Courrier de l'Ouest, 1/7/2008

De l’Art Comestible à Angers(download pdf)

Gwenn Froger, Ouest France, 2/8/2008


L´Apocalypse a du Goût(see video)

Video by Wilfried Thierry for Le Quai (French)