Designer and animator Jamie Tan (Film/Video BFA 15) started baking cakes and fancy French pastries as a meditative practice to help her balance the 20 credit semesters she was taking as a student at CalArts. Tan says the baking process and more specifically, “the relationship between textures, flavors, and memory and feeling” naturally started informing her art practice. One of Tan's earliest projects at CalArts, Anatta, included hand-drawn animations projected through gelatin. “Since then,” she says, “I’ve created a visual language between my art and my cakes, as the processes have become very much intertwined.”
Her experimental approach interested renowned artist Adrián Villar Rojas, who happened to be in search of a local cake artist to help with his most recent exhibition, The Theater of Disappearance, now on view at the Geffen Museum of Contemporary Art (MOCA) in Los Angeles. The environmental site-specific installation is a culmination of a three-part global project that questions our understanding of art objects, and works against fundamental concepts of value in the institutional art world, such as preservation and impermanence.
As his Kitchen Consultant and Designer/Baker, Tan and her firm The Motion Arsenal Studio, baked more than 70 cakes “to create a conversation between both sedimentary forms and textures.” On her website she adds, “The cakes represented a sense of nostalgia, hidden in a timeless landscape of collected, yet abandoned artifacts.” During the life of the exhibition (Oct. 22-May 13), Rojas’ art works, including Tan’s cakes and other food items, will be visibly transformed by the natural process of decomposition.
In order to ensure the cakes will decompose, Rojas’ insisted that Tan worked only with food-based ingredients. She noted her creative process involved “...a series of baking experiments that first explored the different textures of cakes and breads (e.g., close textured, open textured, moist, crumbly, etc.) in tandem with the natural rock formations he created." Tan then began to create the cakes to reflect the "sedimentary layers, including natural elements and found objects hidden within them.”
Tan’s work on Theater of Disappearance is just one example of her wide-ranging art practice. She says, “When I’m not creating conceptual pieces, I work as a designer/animator on broadcast projects and also live projection performances....[The Motion Arsenal] also feeds my insatiable appetite for knowledge by placing me in completely contrasting work environments/artistic fields that only inform my own art even more.”
Keep an eye out for Tan’s cakes, which have been sliced, and sometimes camouflaged, within the The Theater of Disappearance. The exhibition is on on view through May 13, 2018.
The Theater of Disappearance by Adrián Villar Rojas
Oct. 22-May 13, 2018
The Geffen Contemporary at MOCA
152 North Central Ave., Los Angeles
Tickets: Free for member, GA $15, Seniors $10, Students $8
Free admission on Thursdays from 5-8 pm