Jennifer Rubell Talks Eggs, Food as Art, and Art Basel Madness

Last year, Jennifer Rubell's highly anticipated breakfast project was canceled for the first time in 11 years after flooding from Hurricane Sandy damaged her installation. But this year, she's back and better than ever.

On Thursday, December 4, the Rubell Family Collection will open its latest exhibition titled 28 Chinese. The collection is a culmination of six research trips to China where the family visited a hundred studios between the span of 2001 and 2012 and acquired artwork from twenty-eight artists.

At this year's edition of her breakfast project, Rubell will present a new, large-scale, food-based installation titled Faith.

Short Order caught up with Rubell to talk about eggs, food as art, and Art Basel madness.

Short Order: What's it like to be back after a two year hiatus?

Jennifer Rubell: It's great to be doing it again. I'm happy there's been no natural disasters to prevent that. This year's project was an intense physical fete of engineering and craft and so... you'll see. It's exciting.

Without spoiling the surprise, can you tell us a bit about Faith and the meaning behind it?

My family finished a project called 28 Chinese. I knew I wanted to do a piece that involved some kind of Chinese food and the food that I settled on has egg as a dominant ingredient. As I began thinking about the egg symbolically, of course, I began thinking of the natural female association with the egg and thinking about my life in that context. And it's kind of this looking forward and looking back and in every direction. Ultimately, it's completely dependent on many other things.

Your installations are always very interactive. What do viewers have to look forward to the whole experience?

I would say it places the viewer in the position where they are depending on each other and um... Yeah, there's something delicious to eat.

Food and art go so well together. How did you first realize that for yourself?

Really, I had been doing it for 10 years before I realized that that's what I was actually doing. I've always been deeply interested in food, but there was no avenue for food that carried the conceptual way that I needed it to carry and really, the only context that does carry that, that worked for me, was the art world.

I was always interested in creating objects, even if the object only lasted for one or two hours, but I consider my work as visual art. It's interactive, but it also involves food, so it's pretty much inside the history of visual art. It kind of found me. It saved me. I don't know how I would have found a way for food to be used as a carrier of meaning outside of it being art -- I wouldn't know any other way to do that.

You're an artist that uses food as a medium. A lot of chefs consider themselves to be artists. What's your take on that?

Most of my best friends are chefs and I have a deep respect for chefs. I think that most chefs are working in a different historical tradition than visual art -- they're working in the tradition of gastronomy and I choose to work in the tradition of visual art. At the end of the day, all of these categories are really just different means to connect to something transcendent while we're here on Earth for a few years. I mean, chefs achieve a level of production expertise, which is astonishing in addition to their craft and their art form. It's interesting that art influences the food world and food influences the art world and for whatever reason, it seems like the whole world is interested in both things.

What are you most looking forward to at Art Basel Miami Beach this year?

I'm looking forward to everything. I'm honestly going down there this evening and then I'll look at my calendar, but as always, it's like a 90-ring circus and I look forward to getting into as many of those rings as possible.

What are you currently working on?

I'm actually working on this insane immersive theatre circus of art food performance project in New York called Queen of The Night. It's sort of like a cross between a cabaret and a Broadway show and a performance piece. I'm collaborating with a bunch of really talented people, so that's really exciting and that opens December 31, 2013.

Faith opens at the Rubell Family Collection on Thursday, December 5 from 9 a.m. to noon. Call 305-573-6090 or visit rfc.museum.

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