When art is a feast for the taste buds

'The edge of the pizza frames the pineapple pieces as they conduct their warfare with the capers'
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The Independent Online

Hoax or high art? Retro-iconoclasm or neo-conventionalism? Is that with a family-size Pepsi or individual cans? These are the questions that are being asked in the hottest new art debate in town. But art doesn't answer, it merely queries. That's why Pizza Express's new art collection (Prospects 2001) is challenging Pizza Post's position as the most exciting new addition to the cultural zeitgeist. Pizza Post was the founder of the modern tradition of a conceptual art that is delivered to your door after the pubs have shut while some hand-held, non-penetrative porn has just begun on a marginal channel.

Hoax or high art? Retro-iconoclasm or neo-conventionalism? Is that with a family-size Pepsi or individual cans? These are the questions that are being asked in the hottest new art debate in town. But art doesn't answer, it merely queries. That's why Pizza Express's new art collection (Prospects 2001) is challenging Pizza Post's position as the most exciting new addition to the cultural zeitgeist. Pizza Post was the founder of the modern tradition of a conceptual art that is delivered to your door after the pubs have shut while some hand-held, non-penetrative porn has just begun on a marginal channel.

Works in pizza is a demotic, "bottom-up" art sector which has launched an assault on an ossified modern-art establishment, demanding an unconditional right to exist. Pizza power has succeeded, but not without a struggle from conventional artworkers whose work in shark, brick and filthy underwear has been attacked as "Inedible! I'm not paying for that!" by the angriest new kids on the art block.

The most popular pieces have been branded as "expensive" by those new to the genre, but the proof of the pizza is in the resale market where works have described an impressive investment trajectory over their seven-and-a-half month history. It's this, no less than their numinously utilitarian beauty, that demands the genre be taken seriously by tax planners.

Critics have been slow to take on the big meaning of works in pizza, allowing themselves to be misled by the mischievously industrial surfaces, the deceptively quotidian context in which they are presented and the frankly disgusting smell of everything inside the box.

There are exceptions to this chorus of insensitivity: one of our greatest cultural entrepreneurs has observed of the notorious work Pizza Dogs Cleaning Themselves: "The olfactory impact of these pieces is the primal challenge of art which wants to ask the first and most important question of all: Do you presume to know how seriously you are approaching the mystery of the obvious? How naked dare you make yourself? How disabling are the visual prejudgements that you have allowed to constrict your apprehension of reality? How much tax did you pay the Government last year and how dumb was that?"

We say: "All that and extra fries."

And so, to the works themselves. The gnomic, calligraphy that decorates the recycled packaging of Hawaiian Glory (family size) declares with metaphysical insouciance: "A doughboy is a pizza's way of making another pizza."

That's a statement that stops you thinking about itself. No mean feat, it offers a merciful pause in our ceaseless interrogation of reality. We can, if we trust our instincts, be delivered to an essential meaning that cannot be described or spoken of, but only witnessed (that's the salami, incidentally).

In this rebirthing process, we should always be aware of the confining rim of the pizza, the edge that frames the pineapple pieces as they conduct their age-old warfare with the capers. The very shape is an insistent evocation of survivability, defying rectangularity, inspiring the viewer to fight against oppression in all its forms, the fascism that is the essence of geometry.

The Hawaiian work is presented in its own original installation. It is brought to you in a sealed room. You are alone. The waitress is unseeing, indifferent. In an almost ludic paradox she carries the artwork and chews an indeterminate gum - how unaware she is of the significance of her true function or what she really carries. She leaves the plate on your table and indicates the salad bar that you know you can never really use. There is an elusive melancholy attached to that; especially the coleslaw. The girl leaves the room to get a mop from the busboy's cupboard. There is silence. A fly, perhaps. You eat the art. It is over. You pay the bill. Only you know what has occurred, only you can ever know.

This work is offered at $85,000, or $90,000 with extra anchovies, unless it arrives later than 15 minutes after purchase, in which case it is free. Only you will know whether it was free. Such is the incommunicable knowledge that art can offer its most intimate consumers.

simoncarr75@hotmail.com

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