Organoleptic Deconstruction in Three Movements, 1993

In 1993 the theme of the Oxford Symposium was 'Look & Feel: Studies in Texture, Appearance & Incidental Characteristics of Food.' In her performance Alicia mashed up a variety of pink and white foods with her hands; strawberries, marshmallows, meringue, cream. Enticing images of food were then accompanied by the amplified sounds of chewing and swallowing. Finally, she rolled about on a transparent mattress filled with potato chips.

The distinguished food writer for American Vogue, Jeffrey Steingarten hailed it as "a major event in the 50.000 year history of gastronomy... The point" said Mr Steingarten, was that Ms Rios had taken the act of masticating food out of its context by using the external organs, the fingers, instead of the smaller internal ones, teeth, tongue, and palate. She had thus made public an act which is essentially private.

-Paul Levy, The Wall Street Journal, 21.7.93

According to Barbara Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, the Futurists did something similar, also using their hands to chew their food for what they called 'prelabial tactile pleasure.'(1) By transferring the act of chewing to the whole body Alicia highlighted its tactile, even sensual, nature. The mouth is sometimes associated with the sense of taste alone, yet its tactile capacity is extraordinary, as anyone who enjoys kissing well knows! James Gibson suggests that the mouth may even be more sensitive and intelligent than hands in perceiving things.(2) Babies putting things into their mouths are taking advantage of this sensitivity to explore the world around them. Our tactile perception of food is a part of its enjoyment.

(1) Kirshenblatt-Gimblett, Barbara ‘Playing to the Senses: Food as a Performance Medium' in Performance Research 4(1), 1999, pp. 1-30, p. 7.

(2) Gibson, James J. The Senses Considered as Perceptual Systems, George Allen & Unwin, London, 1968, p. 138.