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Technologies of the Kitchen

The Technologies of the Kitchen is a queer take on the kitchen as a place where bodies are made - and at times also quashed. It is where food is prepared and often consumed, where desires are triggered and regulated. It is also a place where ideas of health, beauty, and convenience materialize through routines, technologies, and the choice of ingredients. In Technologies of the Kitchen, Lasse Lau and Flo Maak selected historical narratives that challenge the common notion of the private sphere as a safe environment and present the public as a potentially dangerous space.

This exhibition consists of both pre-existing work by the collaborative artist pair and new work created while they were in Artist in Residency. Burning I (Kitchen) is a partially disassembled, functional gas stove. The installation also includes a megaphone and a reusable grocery bag suspended from the ceiling. Together, these objects present a potentially dangerous machine. During the opening reception, this unique kitchen machine is used both to disturb and to prepare food.

 

Placed with the kitchen, Burning II (Coffee) is a matchbook from Gene Compton's Cafeteria. The matchbook is placed in a vitrine on a golden pedestal. Located in the Tenderloin district of San Francisco, the Compton Cafeteria ambiguously welcomed queer customers and served as a meeting point for the transgender community. On a warm summer night in 1966, the regular transgender customers of the Cafeteria were harassed by a police officer, who was well known for abusing transgender and queer customers. One of the customers, who were unwilling to accept the mistreatment any longer, threw a cup of hot coffee into the face of the police officer. This is how the now named “Compton's Cafeteria Riots” started. Recorded as one of the first queer riots on record in the United States, the Compton Cafeteria Riots were almost forgotten until a local Pride newspaper picked it up a decade later.

Located behind the Compton's Cafeteria matchbook, a photograph shows a hotel room with two identical beds redecorated by Lau and Maak. Two pictures of wire hangers are shown hanging above the beds. The photo represents a standardized idea of “feeling at home” of fleeing places, of changing appearances, exemplified in the hotel's anonymous room. Titled Family Portrait, the image points to alternative ways of belonging beyond the biological family.

Burning III (Cars) is installed at the opposite end of the gallery. Lau and Maak repurposed the side panel from the kitchen gas stove as a projection screen. For the video, Lau and Maak re-appropriated TV footage recorded during the “White Night Riots” in San Francisco on May 21, 1979. This series of riots broke out after the sentence announcement of the murder of Harvey Milk, the first openly gay person to be elected to political office in California. His assassinator was sentenced to seven years in prison.

Directly to the left of the projection piece, Dinner Time consists of a series of plates. Created over Lau and Maak’s residency at Pro Arts, the ceramic plates are partially covered with a dark glaze overlapping an iconic and now faded photograph. The image depicts a group of drag queens in a paddy wagon in New York City after a police raid during the 1960s.

The most prominent piece in the exhibition is Kellogg's “Corny” Cornflakes. The piece a representation of the rooster from Kellogg's cornflakes logo, named Cornelius Cornflakes. The rooster is made of flokati, sometimes referred to as shag carpet. John H. Kellogg is best known for inventing the breakfast cereal, but he also founded and ran the long-running Battle Creek Sanatorium. At this facility, Kellogg offered treatment for all kinds of illness through diet, exercise, and the use of electronic devices, many of which he personally invented.

At his hospital, Kellogg installed a strict no-sex policy. This policy was enforced through the separate housing of men and women and, if necessary, the use of anti-masturbation devices. He frequently referred to masturbation as “self-abuse.” Masturbation was a problem of great concern for Kellogg and others during the Victorian age. In “Plain Facts for Old and Young,” Kellogg lists 39 suspicious signs of this “self-abuse” in children, among them, “Confusion of ideas; girls increased fondness for the society of boys, round shoulders, capricious appetite.”

To fight masturbation, Kellogg recommended regular exercise and diet without any stimulating foods because “flesh, condiments, eggs, tea, coffee, chocolate, and all stimulants, have a powerful influence directly upon the reproductive organs... Right under the eyes of fathers and mothers, they work the ruin of their children, exciting such storms of passion as are absolutely uncontrollable." In the case his strict dietary recommendations were unsuccessful against “self-abuse,” Kellogg would perform cruel surgeries, making masturbation for girls and boys physically impossible.

  Most people believe chastity belts were an invention from the Middle Ages, but Kellogg’s contemporaries invented the most anti-masturbation devices. For example, the device Sexual Armor was invented in 1908 with the US patent number #US875845. These devices fit well within the rigid mindset of the Victorian Age. Referencing these inventions, Lau and Maak used drawings from eight US patents of chastity devices to create ten different embroideries on synthetic leather. Each embroidery piece is titled with the device’s registration number, name, and date of the patent.

Kellogg's approach of including questions of nutrition in the development of medical treatments is not so unusual. It points to an interesting overlap in the functions of two otherwise distinct institutions: the hospital and the kitchen. Both spaces are normally utilized to strengthen and heal the body. They also reflect historic norms and ideals of beauty and health during their time period.

The two pieces, Muscles, and Wrinkles are hospital screens printed with semi-nude bodies from vintage gay porn magazines. The images on the screens are all from before 1968. After this year, full nudity was legal in images, and porn changed. In the context of this exhibition’s narratives, the reference to the hospital also serves to remind viewers of the AIDS crisis. Due to political negligence, thousands and thousands unnecessarily suffered and died without appropriate medical care and public acknowledgment of the epidemic. At the beginning of the epidemic, gay activists repeatedly reminded gay men that someone’s healthy, muscular body did not protect you from getting infected.

Credits 

Lasse Lau & Flo Maak

Technologies of the Kitchen

January 3 – March 24 2017

Pro Arts Gallery

150 Frank H. Ogawa Plaza

Oakland, CA 94612

https://www.proartscommons.org

List of works

Kellogg’s “Corny” Cornflakes,  rooster shaped shag rug installed on wall, 96 x 112 inches (approximately), 2017

Dinner Time, Glaze and transfer print on bisque ware, Dimensions variable, 2017

Burning I, 2017, altered gas stove, gas flask, megaphone, shopping net

Burning II (Coffee), Matches from the Gene Compton’s Cafeteria, pedestal, mirror, acrylic hood, 2017

Burning III (Cars), 2017, looped video, tripod, video projector, side panel of stove, variable measures

Family Portrait, 2010, pigment print in artists’ frame, 32 ½ 24 ½ inches 

Muscles and Wrinkles I (Mountain Pose), 2017, silk screen print on hospital space divider, 68 ½ x 26 ½ x 23 inches, 2017

Muscles and Wrinkles II  (Vanity Mirror) Silk screen print on medical space divider, 68 ½ x 26 ½ x 23 inches, 2017

10 us-patents for anti-masturbation devices from around 1900, embroidery on perfecto leather, 2017:

From left to right, top row 

 

US397106, SURGICAL APPLIANCE, patented Feb. 5, 1889, 2017

Embroidery on Perfecto Leather in artist's frame 

14 ½ x 11” 

 

US875845, SEXUAL ARMOR, patented Jan. 7, 1908, 2017

Embroidery on Perfecto Leather in artist's frame 

14 ½ x 11” 

 

US973330, MITTEN, patented Oct. 18, 1910, 2017

Embroidery on Perfecto Leather in artist's frame 

14 ½ x 11” 

 

US995600, SURGICAL APPLIANCE, patented June 20, 1911, 2017 

Embroidery on Perfecto Leather in artist's frame 

14 ½ x 11” 

 

US995600, SURGICAL APPLIANCE, patented June 20, 1911 (b), 2017

Embroidery on Perfecto Leather in artist's frame 

14 ½ x 11” 

 

From left to right, bottom row  

 

US742814, SURGICAL APPLIANCE, patented Oct. 27, 1903, 2017

Embroidery on Perfecto Leather in artist's frame 

14 ½ x 11” 

US1215028, SURGICAL APPLIANCE, patented Feb. 6, 1917, 2017

Embroidery on Perfecto Leather in artist's frame 

14 ½ x 11” 

 

US104117, SELF PROTECTOR, patented June 14, 1870, 2017

Embroidery on Perfecto Leather in artist's frame 

14 ½ x 11” 

 

US852638, BELT AND SHIELD, patented May 7, 1907, 2017

Embroidery on Perfecto Leather in artist's frame 

14 ½ x 11” 

            

US1215028, SURGICAL APPLIANCE, patented Feb. 6, 1917 (b), 2017

Embroidery on Perfecto Leather in artist's frame 

14 ½ x 11” 

Thank you

Pro Arts Gallery

Natalia Mount

Samantha Reynolds

A special thank you to the following people who supported Lau and Maak throughout their residency and helped make this exhibition possible: Cecilia A. Franklin (Sew Images), Katie Swan, Emily Gui, Joanna Black and Ramon Silvestre (GLBT Historical Society), Kate Kuaimoku and Brushstrokes Studio.

 

 

Technologies of the Kitchen is supported by The Danish Art Council. 

Stills Flo Maak