February 2nd, 2005


Arte Povera

Smakosz has improved greatly since its opening. The chilled display cabinet is now filled with hams and sausages and there is not an empty shelf in sight. Although I had a profound pelmeni disappointment last week (Siberian Monastery style, I was believe I may have been asking for it with that particular choice) from the Ukrainian shop at the bottom of Stamford Hill, I still found myself buying cabbage and mushroom pierogi from the Polish shop. Not bad at all.

The area outside the shop is a section of the street that attracts random dumping. I wrote quite a few months ago that I suspected some of these were the work of disaffected Shoreditch types experimenting with new artistic forms. The opening of the shop hasn't prevented dumping, but it's a been a long while since I've seen some of the more exuberant pieces. On the whole, I am happier with the Polish shop than I am with contemporary art, for I don't especially miss negotiating compressions of chicken bones and glass.

I bought a new camera last week. The previous model still works fine, but I felt it was time to buy a digital model. Since I'll shortly be concentrating on setting up the shop, I need a means of recording various products, retail spaces and so on. That was my excuse anyway. The camera offers decent photography and passable video footage. It's small and easy to use.

This is the first photograph from the camera I am posting and here's an uncompressed version should you really want to see the detail.

I find this quite a spectacular actionist work. There's a certain narrative on offer. Someone goes to Tesco's, they purchase:

A large onion
Two pots of Finest Valencia Orange yoghurt
A jar of Nescafe (Gold Blend?)
A jar of Dolmio sauce
A tin of uncertain provenance

Then, somehow, something happens. The bag is torn, both the coffee and sauce jars are smashed and the remainder of the produce is left behind.

Disgust. Anger. Sorrow. Abandonment.

That's what I sense from the arrangement. Possibly there's a lab at Quantico that could reconstruct the vectors of speed and trajectory and I'd have a clearer picture of what may have happened. Even maybe how many persons were involved in the incident. It must take a reasonable force to smash both the jars. Did the bag split prior to the smashing? I think not for the tear is too long and sudden. That, and the impact pattern of the tomato sauce, suggest that the items didn't spill from the bag and break accidentally. Did some other object impact the bag? Maybe, but what? Why is this still life so very loud?

Consider the contents. Why two yoghurts? This suggestion of a second party might be a red herring for there's no crime in knowing what you like and sticking to it. I really like the way the instant coffee has become a black tar by means of the red sauce. The Quantico team should also be able to establish a time from the amount it has dissolved. It's a meal, but not much of one. Dolmio sauce and a large onion. Yoghurt for afters or perhaps breakfast. That unknown tin that could be almost anything. I didn't think to examine it. Such then are the approximate facts. Shop, SMASH!, leave. We might all write our own story from these clues. I suspect I'm not the only one who looks at such things and tries to reconstruct the event. This rubbish is as rich as Zapruder.

The photo is hosted at flickr, which is a site mixing photography with social networking. It's worth having a random look around and there's a blog with a few choice entries. I'll be posting more photographs there over the coming months and I'll add a link in the Elsewhere section above. There will be a section devoted to similar discoveries in due time.