Cleanliness is a cultural obsession. With food there is a constant social fear of contamination projected into our awareness of what we ingest, and with language in the day-to-day there is a regular effort made to have our actions and behaviors be interpreted as inoffensive and affable. Food and spoken words, oft equally prepared with particularity, are both languages in their own right, means of bringing people together, mechanisms that define origin, assert histories, and can deepen meaning and complexity within otherwise banal exchanges and engagements. When we speak to one another, we find ways to open up new worlds; when we eat together, drink together, we bring down barriers and, in breaking bread, open up to one another in radical ways. Paradoxically that which is often taught as “proper” cultural behavior – in both speech and table manners – are the same things that are scrubbed of any demonstrable character or quirk. In public space we practice restraint daily – we slice our food into smaller pieces, we take sips rather than gulps, we hold doors, pull out chairs, say “Please,” and “Thank you,” and equally feel ingratiated when we are the recipients of similar pleasantries. Yet it is in private space, or in looser moments when such habitual rules of behavior relax (or are dissolved altogether), that we feel free to shake off the shackles of what is considered “appropriate” and instead take pleasure in gourmandizing lavishly, feasting on food and words in a way that is fearless as we step away from the realm of polite and into the experimental territory of poetics. It is here, in this more colorful space, in such sloppy and sullied sites of feast, that we show not only deeper aspects of our characters, but also aspects of our politic, turning ourselves inside, out.
Legacy Russell’s Dirty Talk | Clean Food, the artist’s first gallery solo – presented by Field Projects in Chelsea, NY – looks to explore the tensions between private and public, food and language, sterility and filth, cleanliness and dirt. When two people meet at a table to share a meal, to participate in a date, be it privately or publicly, there are varying strands of intimacy to untangle. The projected stereotype of dating as a construct and social action often ends with sexual intimacy as opportunity, as evening punctuation, an unspoken suggestion or, further, expectation (Sex? Sex!). On dates we eat our way toward a kiss at the end of the night, on dates we hold the door, pull out the chair, and pay the bill, with the hopes that these showings of courtesy and respect (vis-à-vis a nod to social mores) may lead at some point to greater intimacies, or give way to something even more abstract – love. To battle against orchestrated and overwrought romantic love, the inorganic sterility of Hallmark-style affection, in the path toward the wars of passion individuals often participate in when being intimate – rough versus gentle, poise versus eagerness, as found in pushing, pulling, squeezing, releasing – can be both exciting, and challenging. How to get from the dinner table to the bedroom? How to shrug off the stiffness of etiquette in the interest of truly exploring the limits of ones sexuality? In what ways can the dinner table and the words spoken there act as both implicit and explicit acknowledgement of values, desires and needs? This work operates as a sketch of such experience, both study and parody, aiming to suss out the texts and subtexts introduced in the process of our communal devouring of meals en route to the devouring of one another.