Eat Me! (or You Are What You Eat)
EIDIA: Paul Lamarre and Melissa P. Wolf
January 2010


“Domestic Bliss” by Eidia
March 24-April 17, 1993, Gallery LOK (Meat market district), NYC


Dear Reader,

The following text was crafted as spoken word, and is meant to be performative, (or at least as performative as a standard simulated computer voice can be interpreted to be.)

You are hereto invited to imbibe EAT ME! not by reading this, but instead by listening to it being read to you, and while you are cooking.

While having cocktails or a glass of wine with friends sitting around the kitchen as you prepare dinner, simply open any Word document or TextEdit (on a Mac) for example, and copy the text into your document, clicking on the speech feature.

Invisible Culture and EIDIA has provided links to four video performances; My Coffee in the Morning, Beans and Onions, and Starving Artists' Cookbook (SAC) from The Chelsea Tapes, (1986) and from FOOD SEX ART, The Starving Artists’ Cookbook video series (1991) John Cage preparing his “Soup Des Jours ”which is linked to our web site

Some correspondence between Invisible Culture and EIDIA:

-----Original Message-----
From: Paula Pinto
Sent: Nov 4, 2009 10:23 AM
Subject: RE: Aesthetes and Eaters – Food and the Arts

I really enjoyed seeing the Starving Artist's videotapes at the Umami last year, but now I'm really intrigued by the Chelsea's segments too.

Let us know whatever your ideas are at the moment. I'm happy we'll be able to work out something for the Invisible Culture's issue... it looks that this would be a nice platform for you to approach the various projects you have been dedicating to artist's social's status through food. It would be great if the text could make the link between the “Baking Bread”, the “Chelsea Tapes” and the Starving Artists’ Cookbook. It would also be great to have attached some vignettes from the book…

What we would like to do is send to you a DVD of the Chelsea Tapes and you and your team could grab the three food related pieces for your edition. (As you would see on the DVD menu)
11. My Coffee in the Morning,
16. Beans and Onions,
17. Starving Artists’ CookBook
We could then provide you with a one or two page text, if you like, as a brief back-story for the vignettes you chose.

What is fortuitous about you mentioning the Chelsea Tapes, (as we have just screened it in Hamburg Germany,) the BIRTH of the Starving Artists’ Cookbook actually took place during my nearly two year stay at the Chelsea Hotel to make the Chelsea Tapes 1983-84. What enabled me to move into the Chelsea in the first place was that I had won one of the prestigious CAPS fellowships the year prior for the video “Baking Bread”. (A Tassajara bread recipe normally taking 3 hours, I reduced into 3 minutes, shot in a cold artist studio loft in SoHO where bread just can’t rise. A farcical work.)

SAC was launched in 1983, three years prior to Melissa and my beginning taping for the SAC, (well before Rirkrit Tiravanija gallery food events I might add). I truly was wondering what clever food ideas other artists had that sustain their survival on very little money, as most of my art peers placed their art paramount, far ahead of what they imbibed. Contrary to past and present free market notions that the starving artist is somehow mythical, as you would agree many of us in the arena of cultural production do indeed often place our creative output ahead of eatable intakes.

Note that the # 17 Starving Artists’ Cookbook is a short piece wherein I propose to launch the SAC and garner artist’s recipes. So that is documented! And your journal would also be the first opportunity to show me cooking and the actual SAC genesis, with Melissa behind the camera though only seen in a couple other vignettes.

Let us know what you think. If you like the approach, please send mailing address.

We are so sorry for this delay. To follow is our text entry, entitled: EAT ME! for Invisible Culture 14. Your inquiry to us nearly a year ago has caused us to ruminate and “connect the dots” if you will for these early projects: “Baking Bread”, The Chelsea Tapes and The Starving Artists’ Cookbook.

For your issue the following is in effect the back-story of the origination of the much larger work The Starving Artists’ Cookbook / Video which spanned 5 years. (For more information on this project see

For Invisible Culture we mused the “how’s and why’s” of our food/art obsession evolution from the early days of the 1980s—the video vignette performances contained in The Chelsea Tapes i.e.; My Coffee in the Morning, The Starving Artists' Cookbook, and Beans and Onions, as well as an earlier video work Baking Bread. Works that brought us to were we are now, EIDIA House.

But how could these performances be made even more tactile through Invisible Culture? For your text we tried to go back and capture a “voice” and tenor of nearly 30 years ago….
Good luck with your issue.
Paul & Melissa

*   *   *  

This text is intentionally written in the tone of the self-consumed egoist that I was in New York during my stay at the Chelsea. (And mind you, this was just before collaborating with Melissa.) So to effectively go back nearly three decades for the back-story of the projects that brought us to where we are now, (with a more social-political artistic mandate) I felt compelled, as painful and “sorry” a state of mind this exercise reveals, to take up that voice of my old self. A self that then would never entertain the idea of a collaboration with another artist, (let alone many)—better said perhaps, to be the “interviewer” and not the interviewee. My goal since these early days has been to try and leave this voice behind by capturing the voices of others.

My video / performance approach then was say, Woody Allen—a portrait of an artist in daily life and told with a sense of humor. In searching for a very simple metaphor to launch from, I found it in FOOD. I would bake a loaf of bread. If successful, an audience would truly see “who” this artist is. (Bread making was a natural extension from my even early training as an artist in ceramics—the wedging of clay, building of forms, and final kiln firing.)

So in 1981, in a huge, cold, ill-lit New York SoHo loft, (on Mercer Street where I had lived) and with the assistance of a fellow video artist behind the camera, I proceeded to make a loaf of bread. My “method” was based on the San Francisco style of the Tassajara bread recipe—but not in the required time frame of about 3 hours. It was to be done in just 3 minutes. Though I actually had planned for a 10-minute performance, the old used ¾ inch U-Matic video deck kept shutting off every three minutes. After three or four takes, the piece entitled “Baking Bread” eventually resolved itself. Not surprising however, given the dank atmosphere of a SoHo loft the bread dough could not raise to save its life.

Baking Bread and a second work, From the Adult to the Child was awarded a CAPS fellowship in Multi-Media / Video/Performance the following year. And with that funding I soon moved into the Chelsea Hotel to begin a new work, The Chelsea Tapes. (Creative Artists Public Service Program was funded by the New York State Council on the Arts to support individual artists’ work in a variety of disciplines 1970-1981). This extensive video of 20 vignettes (TRT 72 minutes) was designed to expose the nature of an artist “under the influence” of the famous and infamous Chelsea Hotel.

At the Chelsea on occasion I would ride the elevator with the permanent residents such as the sweet Virgil Thomson, or the always-talkative Viva. You never knew what Celeb you would be riding those consistently clunky elevators with. But when an elevator would breakdown, as they did weekly, the regulars stuck inside always took it with a grain of salt. These happenings offered time for conversation—uncustomary in most elevators—but here just another quirky charm of the Chelsea. It seemed to make perfect sense.

It's now 1983, I'm still at the Chelsea and I meet Melissa Wolf during a New Museum of Art opening. This is when the museum was just a small gallery space at the New School. Melissa was working at the Museum, having just ending an internship at Anthology Film Archives. She eventually became my partner, cameraperson and video editor for The Chelsea Tapes, as she had a background in, and true passion for the medium. I was completely taken with Melissa—her unbiased openness—somehow oblivious to the biases I was indoctrinated with on so many levels growing up in an insular large Roman Catholic family.

My collaboration with Melissa offered an openness that harmonized perfectly with what the Chelsea Hotel was all about, and what The Chelsea Tapes I hoped could capture. The idea of collaboration became paramount in how art was to be for me (for us) going forward. Little did we know that our next collaboration would be, The Starving Artists’ Cookbook.

From my perspective, in the early 1980s, Paul was more than bored with himself. He was (also) in the throws of completing a photo / performance entitled One Year To Live (OYTL) wherein he spent one year, everyday contemplating suicide, and documenting each day with one photographic portrait of himself (35mm black and white.) As the year passed and he found himself still alive—understanding the “artist at large” seemed even more significant a challenge to grapple with. OYTL did however, resulted in an exhibition of the photographs, (40” X 60” murals) at Hallwalls Contemporary Art Center in Buffalo New York curated by Claudia Gould, now director of ICA in Philadelphia.

Paul’s continued experimentation with video and photography—though a self-reflective inward look—was outside the practiced ilk of the artist realizing him/herself by stepping back and gazing at their just completed painting or sculpture. It was not about the art. It was about the artist. But how to get at that soul? How to expose, make visible, make “palatable” if you will, (beyond the cannon) these quirky creative characters called artists. He wanted to put a face on the artist—the artist who’s father told him he was born to be but in the end held no respect for. Why was the artist not understood? What is being missed here?

If I am looking at one of Rembrandt’s self-portraits, I’m not moved by what I see in the painting per se—the portrait of a guy—but the challenge, the possibility of understanding what Rembrandt was thinking. What his life was really like. What did that studio around him look like? If I stared long enough could I almost smell the turpentine, or even something cooking in the kitchen? What was Rembrandt eating?

Or the paintings of Albert Pinkham Ryder, it is reported that he included all sorts of organic matter into his painting. Looking at his paintings I can almost smell his messy New York studio. To quote a New York journalist's account of his studio in 1906:

“Two thirds of the room was full, packed solid with things that had never been moved since they were set there years before, chairs, tables, trunks, packing boxes, picture frames, vast piles of old magazines and newspapers. Overhead long streamers of paper from the ceiling swayed in the air. All around the edge of the conglomeration sat dishes on the floor, tea cups with saucers over them, covered bowls, crocks, tin pails, oil cans, milk bottles, boxes of apples and packages of cereals. In one comer a pile of empty cereal packages mounted to the ceiling. In another a stately tall chair staggered under its accumulated load. A black wedding chest rich with carving was almost undiscoverable under the odds and ends that burdened it. A splendid Greek head stands on the top board with a footbath on one side and a box of hay on the other. Against an exquisite piece of portrait sculpture, the work of a master hand, a friendly package of rice. The confusion-was unimaginable, incredible.”
“Albert Pinkham Ryder” by Frederic Fairchild Sherman, Privately Printed 1920 New York. [Pages 18-19]

I really don’t want to deviate here and get into, say, Daniel Spoerri’s “Eat Art.”, Piero Manzoni’s “Merda d'Artista” or F.T. Marinetti’s “The Futurist Cookbook” with their more immediate references to food in art—they are obvious and really intriguing. And I don't mean to leave out the conceptualist contributions by say Gordon Matta-Clark and Carol Goodden's Food, a restaurant managed and staffed by artists in SoHo, New York during the 1970s, or Les Levine's Irish-Jewish Canadian restaurant (New York, 1969). (In the late 80s Les Levine performed the making of Brussels Sprouts & Mushroom Amaretto for the Starving Artists' Cookbook video and contributed the recipe to the book.)

Back peddling a bit, it was 1977-78. Paul was just finishing a Bachelor of Fine Arts (graduating Magna Cum Laude) from the University of Michigan. The noted surrealist and abstract expressionist, Gerome Kamrowski was, as he referred to himself, to quote Paul “my mentor.” (Paul maintains that Kamrowski tagged the artist Mike Kelley with this same designation — Kelley had just graduated the University of Michigan School of Art and Design a year prior to go on to California Institute of the Arts, Valencia, CA. The University of Michigan also produced the brilliant performance artist Pat Oleszko.)

Kamrowski employed me as his studio assistant, to work on his sculptures. Often we would not get that much done, Gerry would pull out a six-pack of beer and that was it for art production. Working in Gerry’s studio, (a building design of Tony Smith), was memorable beyond words—an eye opener into Kamrowski’s genius. This is perhaps the genesis for my desire to document the artist firsthand.

It is interesting to note that Kamrowski in his early career (1940’s) had collaborated with Jackson Pollack in “automatism” paintings, an American manifestation of the earlier surrealism “fathered” by André Breton’s in 1920s Paris. One of the works that Kamrowski, Pollock, and Baziotes completed together was “Collaborative Painting” (1941) which was created in Kamrowski's New York studio.

In 1979 Paul had flown from Detroit to New York to meet the legend, Joseph Beuys, during his Guggenheim retrospective. An introduction was arranged through letter correspondences with Ronald Feldman owner of Ronald Feldman Gallery. Paul was at the time researching Beuys rigorously as the subject of a thesis paper.

For Paul, Beuys had the most impact on his thinking (next to Marcel Duchamp) as Beuys with his “social sculpture” theoretical, moved the thrust of his works well beyond the realm of art cannon—art as mere decoration. Recall Beuys’ co-founding of the Free International University and was elected a Green Party candidate for the European Parliament. As Duchamp said, and as Bueys repeated time and again, (and as EIDIA maintains) “Everyone is an artist.” And what of the cook in the kitchen?

Years after their brief meeting, Paul and Beuys had discussions about Beuys’ inclusion in The Starving Artists’ Cookbook. But Beuys wanted EIDIA to devote their entire book project to his cooking. From unrecorded phone conversations Paul recalls, Beuys saying (in his somewhat stilted English); You should come here to Düsseldorf and make your book about me. I am famous for my cooking. I also made the furniture in my kitchen.

Certainly a tempting offer, and the opportunity we discussed at length. But as Bueys believed in his “Social Sculpture” so too we had to stay on point with our social sculpture—The Starving Artists’ Cookbook. SAC was about a broad sweep of art voices, and the platform from the get-go was an inclusive one. (As it happened, much later, after his death, a book; Joseph Beuys: The Art of Cooking, artwork by Joseph Beuys and text by Lucrezia De Domizio Durini was published.)

Paul’s way as an artist was not to be a Beuys or Duchamp. Nor did he want to be. He was one who could never stand such notoriety. And the responsibility for that kind of visibility was a distraction his art could not afford. He always needed his solitude. But Paul truly admired how Beuys and Duchamp (at times) worked outside that “white cube”. That classic gallery or museum room, where the artist is only represented by the “objects” he/she makes. For us this challenge continues to the present. How can the artist do more—be more impactful—in the world at large?

The heart of FOOD SEX ART The Starving Artists’ Cookbook is based on a conviction that food is a vehicle for ultimate artistic expression and communication. Food (like art) breaks through barriers and enables people from a cacophony of backgrounds and differences to come together in community. The SAC project attempts to offer anyone watching the video and reading the book a glimpse into what makes the artist “tick”. Art is about process and food is about process. Both reveal the integrity or lack there of, of the producer. And to share in that process is to induce subtle and overt dialogues enabling compassion. Food like art is always reflexive of the social, political consciousness of the producer and the consumer. The SAC project officially beginning in 1984 resulting in a nine hour edited video in 1989. The limited edition, 500, book was completed in 1991.

We continued to record artists’ cooking performances; the edited compilation will be available later in 2010. Some of the artists in this expanded SAC are: Emmett Williams, Michael Smith, Kim Jones, Peter Åström, Karen Benglis, Ann Messner, Oliver Herring, Peter Krashes, Alison Knowles, Polly Apfelbaum, Stuart A. Sherman, and various Russian artists from Moscow and St. Petersburg recorded during trips in 1992 and 1995.



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Invisible Culture

Issue no.14: Aesthetes and Eaters
- Food and the Arts

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