Link Buffet: Making a Scene

Oddly, I have two arty links about lettuce and two for jellybeans this week. Fair and balanced reportage!

I just saw this Requiem for a Lettuce at Edible Geography today: a designer, Leonardo Amico, hooked up some lettuce leaves to a circuit which translated their electrolyte currents into tones. The EG post has more information about the life cycle of a lettuce: when it is picked, it is a living food that continues to respire and consume nutrients–its own, since no others are available–so after a few days there are far fewer electrolytes to stimulate the tones recorded in this experiment, indicated by a dramatic shift in the pitch and frequency of the tones. You can see this in the video at the link.
I was mostly astonished by how much the whole set-up reminds me of a hospital. EG wonders whether this might be someday translated into a useful device to determine when lettuce is about to go off in the fridge.

Lettuce was also on the menu at The Hairpin last week. As backstory: A couple of years ago, The Hairpin post a series of stock photographs of Women Laughing Alone With Salad. It went viral–there was even a Halloween costume documented–and I’ve always had a hard time pinning down why. I look at it, and I think “I know, right?” The premise of laughing alone–great big wide-mouthed laughs–with a salad is patently ridiculous, but entirely familiar. Surely this says something about our culture, but what?
Last week Jia Tolentino (whose interviews are routinely perceptive and kind) spoke with Maja Cule, an artist who put words to exactly what troubled/tickled me about the images:

“Woman laughing alone with salad” is a meme that identifies codes in stock images that are not true to our experience—false representations of happiness, health, gender and pleasure. I think of these images when someone says “health,” at the same time I know that the image has absolutely no connection with feeling healthy or being healthy. It’s a cliché of healthy.
. . . The laughter in “woman laughing alone with salad” symbolizes health, and the satisfaction of a consumer. But for a long time, it was abnormal to use laughter to represent health or satisfaction. In ancient Greece, laughing portraits were associated with madness, arrogance or ignorance.

Yes, that’s it–the images are composed of visual idioms to represent conditions or experiences that don’t necessarily manifest themselves visually. This is the same reason that the figures in old paintings sometimes look very strange to us; the human faces are composed to represent emotions in ways that might have been legible to contemporaries of the painting, but that aren’t always recognizable expressions to us.

With stock photography, though. we sometimes have the uncanny experience of simultaneously reading the image correctly and still not recognizing it. Maja Cule was talking about women and salad because the meme is one of several that she explores in her photo series, using the visual language of stock photography but subverting expectations of gender, body type, product placement, and so forth.

On to the sweeter side of things: Colossal featured a video by Ze Frank (caution: video will autoplay) in which the artist took statistics from the Department of Labor about how many days of the average life are spent doing various tasks–eating, sleeping, taking care of a loved one, watching TV–and counted them out in jelly beans.

I’d love to ask Ze Frank why he used jelly beans as opposed to, say, popcorn, buttons, pennies, or any other small inexpensive object. I suppose jelly beans are more colorful and fun to look at than popcorn, and, unlike buttons, can eaten (although nothing is consumed in this video but time). I would also say that jelly beans connote whimsy and simple sweetness, which adds some levity to a video that is essentially asking you to confront your mortality, but many of the YouTube commenters weighed in to pronounce the video “depressing.”

If you agree, then as a palate cleanser, consider this simple and sweet video for “In Your Arms” by Kina Grannis, in which everything but the musician is composed entirely of jelly beans.

If you’re not sufficiently impressed, check out the “Making of” video. All of those moving jellies are given life by stop-motion animation, with the musician photographed on top of a jelly backdrop in each shot. I particularly admire the fact that they created a plaster mold of Kina so that they could have her burst out of a jellybean version of herself; I attempted to make plaster casts of several of my friends during my stint as a sculpture minor in college, and let me tell you, it is not always as easy or fun (or clean!) as they make it look.


Related posts on this site:

More converting vegetables into tones

The great Salad Toss!

Remember when I used an image of a gummy bear chandelier on a post and then the artist stopped by to show us how he made it?

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