Appetite Monument is an interactive body of work highlighting commercially-appropriated biological responses to external stimuli intended to influence cognitive as well as visceral daily appetite choices. Alternating between physiological and psychological stimulants and suppressants, this project consists of an interactive installation, downloadable art editions/content, sounds, scents, and performances - all of which examine manipulative food marketing, dietary identities, and consumption from both a personal and communal perspective.
Appetite Monument is the latest installation work in a series beginning in 2011 with Appetite Apparatus #1 (Baker-Miller Pink, Suppressant). Mimicking the 1978 scientific study by Dr. Alexander Schauss, this first experimental/experiential sculpture addresses the physiological and psychological responses to the color Baker-Miller Pink. The study by Dr. Schauss concluded that a subject exposed to this color for 15 minutes will eventually become calm, physically weaker, and experience a loss of appetite. The wall-mounted structure provides the viewer with a framed 18x24 inch poster of Baker-Miller Pink, beneath which is a shelf containing weight-loss color therapy glasses of the same color and a 15 minute pink sand timer. When the viewer wears the glasses and gazes at the poster for the allotted time, they eventually lose their appetite.
The second piece in the series, Appetite Apparatus #2 (Monosodium Glutamate, Stimulant), 2011, is a sculptural object consisting of a bright red plinth painted in the same Pantone color as the McDonald’s restaurant logo, Pantone 485. Affixed on top of the plinth is a glass bowl containing a baker’s dozen (13 pounds) of MSG, a stimulant food additive. The third and most recent sculpture in the series is called Appetite Apparatus #3 (Scent Sculpture #1, Grapefruit & Fennel, Suppressant), 2016. This apparatus presents another mode of commercial manipulation: subliminal scent marketing. The apparatus references a common business practice of distributing scents to trigger desired visceral and sociological responses, thus controlling the commercial environment and customer behavior with an end goal of increased consumption. The 5-foot tall vented plexiglass vitrine contains and distributes grapefruit and fennel essential oils through an embedded scent nebulizer. Known to be a natural appetite suppressant, this citrus-based scent is dispersed as an anti-consumption vapor, effectively changing the viewer’s dietary and social interactions and utilizing subliminal scent marketing in a manner opposite typical usage.
The next iterations of the series, for inclusion in the CURRENT:LA - FOOD Public Art Triennial, is Appetite Monument. Along with supplemental exhibition elements such as scents and sounds, the imposing, site-specific installation is located within and around the Valley Plaza Recreation Center’s seasonal pool in North Hollywood, California.
As reference to vessels of consumption both empty and full along with our very own organs that possess the same volumetric capacity, Appetite Monument consists of many elements already existing at the recreational pool located at Valley Plaza Recreation Center. During the summer months in the valleys of Los Angeles, this pool provides its patrons with a way to quench their thirst or better yet, satiate their summer heat-busting desires. Once the season ends, the pool is unceremoniously drained and left barren, leaving the patrons “hungry.” The once-occupied utilitarian pool becomes an aesthetic formal object of negative space with a landscape of geometric lines and planes. As a direct reference to our own gastronomic desires, pangs, and dietary necessities, the Valley Plaza pool presents the viewer with an empty vessel, a gut. The interior of the pool’s surface then transforms as it is repainted with the aforementioned Baker Miller Pink hue. Mimicking fleshly systems of digestion, the Baker-Miller Pink pool both attracts and repels the viewer with the scientifically-proven natural suppressant to calm appetites.
Outside of the fenced pool, within the existing audience bleachers, is a commercial scent nebulizer equipped with corresponding suppressant and stimulant essential oil canisters. Acting as an observation deck for the Baker-Miller Pink pool, the steel and concrete bleacher structure will treat these invisible and weightless scents as metaphorically displayed historical artifacts. The venting system emits pure grapefruit and fennel, acting as a natural suppressant while directly referencing the farms and groves that once occupied the valleys of the surrounding landscape. Toward the end of the exhibition period the installation will transform from a suppressant to a stimulant. The venting system will emit the scent of freshly baked bread, a choice often used in manipulative scent marketing to subversively stimulate and encourage appetite. This scent is also recalling the memory of the vast wheat fields that once grew in North Hollywood, highlighting the agricultural roots of Los Angeles.
Installed alongside the scent machine is a channeled sounds system playing unique soundtracks created by musician and artist travl’r. Beginning with the suppressant, this soundtrack will directly reference and mimic current subliminal messaging and hypnotherapy CDs and prevalent Youtube videos intended to curb one’s appetite. Utilizing carefully selected sounds and frequencies, these unique tracks created specifically for this installation complement the scents wafting in the observation bleachers and ultimately hindering patrons’ hunger. Once the installation transforms from a suppressant to a stimulant the soundtrack will change along with the scents performing the opposite task of agitating and exciting the patron’s appetite.
Much in the same way marketing manipulations are broadcast universally yet received personally, Appetite Monument presents a binary of hunger vs satiation and ultimately the voluntary and involuntary stimulation vs suppression of those visceral reflexes. Topics such as chromotherapy, light therapy, aromatherapy, diet as religion, and diet as political position are all ways for individuals to identify and proselytize their culinary and dietary choices. Although consumption-related concepts from food fads and diet crazes to metabolic scrutiny exist globally, Los Angeles is an epicenter of these behaviors, and as such local companies and consumers alike are prone to recruit “members” into their gastronomic ideologies. Appetite Monument offers up the deceptively simple choice to stimulate or suppress one’s appetite. Contrary to visual and olfactory subversive marketing, the participants of this project are equipped with the knowledge of what is happening to their physiological and psychological wellbeing. Along with societal pressures of appearance and knowledge of this marketing manipulation, the participant can make the conscious (and perhaps conflicted) decision to participate in pursuing a dietary stimulant or suppressant. The audience is faced with questions of diet culture, appearance vs health, and other related topics centered around marketing and consumption.
This project goes further in that it raises questions of consent, permission, and privacy. In the current consumer market, many marketing tactics do not take into consideration or intentionally ignore these ethical implications. Appetite Monument actively and transparently utilizes these marketing tactics against the viewer to ultimately alter their perception and knowledge of how they will interact with food products and exist within spaces where food consumption takes place after they step away from the work.