Razia Barsatie on Food

Researching the histories of food, and using them as art materials

In what ways does food come into your practice?

I am using food as artistic material to express a certain feeling and/or emotion in a process of healing. The masala is a strong mixture of several individual ingredients which each of them has their own smell and taste. The combination of bitterness, sweetness, hardness, softness and so on. The sense of smell is the shortest way of your brain which I as an artist, want you, as a viewer, to experience. With the strong scent of the masala I want to capture your attention so that you immediately smell it entering the space. The smell will lead you to my work.  Kurkuma is the main ingredient of the masala. The yellow color from the kurkuma has a strong stain. That is symbolically the stain every individual has carried within themselves. The stain of guilt, the stain of trauma, the stain of brokenness, the stain of vulnerability. In my work it is my responsibility to keep all these mixtures of emotion and feeling under control to get rid of layered stains in me to be who I am. As a binder to sculpt with the spices I am using tapioca, a cassava starch.  What was it like to work with tapioca as a material?

Working with tapioca is challenging. As a material it is super fragile but has a lot of potential; it is transparent and gelatinous. With these two elements I experiment making paintings with the spices and making skin type bioplastics.    What I learned about tapioca is that it changes constantly in its own shape in hot and cold weather as well. The humidity in the room transforms its shape which I don't have any control of. My work lives, when it's hanging, when it's wrapped, when it is laid down.

How do words, history and memory come into your work through materials? 

I am interested in the history of the suppressed upbringing of the traditional culture from Suriname and how sensitive topics in the household such as the embarrassment of child abuse in the family, sex, marriage to another race/religion, are seen as taboo. It might not be too taboo nowadays, but unfortunately men and women, boys and girls are still dealing with these topics at home. I see this as a silent taboo. Against this background, I am confronting the cultural traditions that my ancestors brought from India to Suriname more than 150 years ago and which have been preserved there as if time has stood still. The works I create are meant to break silent taboos, process fears, make it discussable and learn to deal with it. I am diving into the subconsciousness and consciousness by asking myself what happens between these two worlds. My curiosity for fears that have never been spoken, captured the subconscious and finally got the dare to speak about it. How to recognize the hidden fear and how to deal with it. In my work you can not only see this but also smell it, feel it and hear it. At the moment I am digging my own subconscious to understand my emotions and feelings and how to deal with it. My material research serves to ‘tell stories’ with herbs. Through my scent art, I am on a mission to remove the embarrassment through dialogues between the viewer and artwork. The herbs symbolically represent a natural connection between what I want to depict and the ‘roots’/source from which my emotions and memories are nourished. The material sculpturally expresses this connection as the ‘vulnerability and processing’ of the human. How has your time at Rijksakademie affected your practice? 

When I got selected for the Rijksakademie I had a huge plan of making a big theater installation work as a gesamtkunstwerk, a mixed-media work with sound, spoken words, sculptures etc. The first thing I wanted to make were sculptures and was looking for a binder for spices. I tried different household kitchen materials. Flour, salt, and herbs. Flour did make a difference and did explore making hands. I experiment further and start mixing the spices into epoxy. The result of epoxy surprised me, but I thought about looking for a natural base of resin. I decided not to use any chemical materials and started using tapioca. The history that afro-surinamese clothing 'Koto' and the headband 'Angisa' was stiffened with the cassava starch, was a direct link. Diving deeper and deeper into the material research of tapioca I am aiming to transform this into an art material. At the Rijksakademie I got my chance to focus in developing food material as art material with help of the advisors, technicians and the facilities.

Find more of Razia's work:

Instagram: @raziabarsatie Website : www.raziabarsatie.com