Prepare the ingredients for, but do not assemble, a putter butter and jelly sandwich.
Lay bare your feet on the ground.
Clasp your hands behind your back.
Do not move your hands from behind your back.
Make the sandwich.
Food Piece is a score that encourages the performer to interact with the world in a new way. My main inspiration for the piece is Yoko Ono’s Syllable Piece. The idea of experiencing life without the use of an arbitrary syllable sounded crazy and absurd, but it stuck in my head and forced me to think how many syllables I use on a daily basis. How would I communicate if I lost a super common syllable like “ing” or “ly”? How would it be different if I gave up “xy”? Like Ono, I sought to challenge the user to imagine living life without something they use everyday: our hands. Our hands are our primary means of acting on the work around us, and I wanted to toy with the idea of asking the performers to not only consider what life would be like if we had no access to our hands or arms, but to experience it through the lens of a daily task. I felt asking the performer to accomplish a task without hands would bring the sense of activity that I personally enjoy about Ono’s scores while still staying true to the idea of losing something commonplace.
Making a sandwich was chosen as it is a low-risk, low-cost food item and feeding ourselves is one of the main tasks in our day. The type of sandwich chosen – peanut butter and jelly – was chosen for the difficulty of making it (though incidentally it also serves as a tribute to Kaprow’s use of jam in his pieces). We think of making a PB&J as a very simple sandwich, but it is only as easy as the tools we have to make it. Without a knife, or other spreading tool, making the sandwich is nigh impossible. However, through this piece, we see that not only do we rely on tools to perform our daily tasks, but also that when we take away our primary means of interacting with the world, those tools become useless and attempting to rely on them can actually get in the way.
Food also is an important medium for play. Just as Fluxus artists wanted to play with the world around them and make people think or experience the world in a new and unique way, I wanted the performer to have the option to play with the food and get messy. The peanut butter and jelly helps to reinforce that messiness as once it gets on your foot, it stays there. However, as the performer begins to play with their food (something we as a society deem “bad manners”), a new method of interacting with the sandwich materials opens. From my personal experience with this piece, the moment I chose to play with the food (which is when I scraped the peanut butter off the knife) was when the task went from somewhat frustrating and absurd to playful and fun. Making that choice to get messy made my task a lot easier. I gave up on even thinking about using the knife on the jelly and instead dove right in with my foot. In the moment it’s a very odd decision, because you know getting messy isn’t permanent, but there were also lingering thoughts of “how will I get to the bathroom to wash my feet”, “oh no, I’m going to have to clean up any sticky footprints on the ground” and “the rest of the food will be ruined.”
Ultimately, I think my score ended up rather fun and is a playful way to challenge the performer to take a hands-off approach to a common, everyday task. I think it’s important that my piece does not specify the method the performer uses to assemble the sandwich, only that they must keep their hands clasped together. It encourages creative thinking and playfulness as the performer interacts with this common object.
Take off your footwear
Take off your socks
Clasp your hands behind your back. Do not let go
Make a PB&J sandwich
You may make any type of sandwich as an alternative
My original draft said nothing about preparing the ingredients. Without the explicit instruction, I found myself not having thought far enough ahead in my own work and ended up with the still tied bread, sealed peanut butter, and closed jar of jelly when I first clasped my hands together. This ended up with my fussing about trying to uncap the jelly before realizing that I wasn’t able to do it. This was my major issue with my original draft, and I added a line to the beginning to specify preparing the ingredients but not making the sandwich. Additionally, I wanted to make the language a bit more concise about the language with regards to taking off footwear.
The final draft was tested in class by Abby who volunteered to perform the score. Things of note in the in class performance were that both she and I took the same order on building the sandwich, we both experimented with using the knife until eventually deciding that using our feet worked better, and that when the sandwich was done Abby took it a step further and gave it a fancy triangle cut.
The first major issue encountered in the first draft was being unable to open the bag or jars.
Pictures of Abby’s performance at various stages