Rasic recreates an instruction from the manual on eating fruit on a busy street with eyes shut; the facing illustration depicts the action in Rasic and Colombi’s Manual for Universal Eating. Pics/Sneha Kharabe
On a late Thursday afternoon, the blazing sun staring in our faces on a not-so crowded stretch of Juhu Beach is offset by a cool, strong sea breeze. What also helps beat the heat is a handful of strawberries we have been given to savour while soaking in the sights and smells around us. Accompanying us is Serbian artist Katarina Rasic, who, while biting into the fruit, also occasionally jumps in the air or lies down in the sand, urging us to join in. Call it inhibition or a rare sensory treat that has us fully absorbed, but we are happy simply walking in the sand.
Sense and satiate
Writing about it 24 hours later, it is surprising how the experience evokes memories of not just the sound of the waves or the wind in our hair, but also of the strawberries, whose sweetness we can only liken to that of the ones we had plucked straight from a farm in Mahabaleshwar. And in the process, we realise, Rasic has proved her point.
One of the art projects of the 30-year-old from Belgrade, who made Mumbai her home in 2012, has been about exploring the relationship of self and food set against the backdrop of a city. Today and tomorrow, Rasic will conduct a performance workshop called Food Escapade where she will take participants to different locales in Versova, guiding them to perform a range of actions with fresh fruits and veggies, and in turn, reflect on their associations with and memories of food.
The workshop is based on the "eccentric" Manual for Universal Eating that Rasic and Italian artist Chiara Colombi devised in December 2017. With instructions like "Find a soft green grass surface, lie down, take a piece of chocolate, place it on your tongue, let it melt slowly in your mouth", it could well be taken as a response to WH Davies' timeless Leisure.
"So often, we treat food merely as a means of sustenance. We tend to gobble it up, without taking a moment to focus on the process of eating. When you give yourself some time to do that, you would be surprised by the thoughts that food can trigger," says Rasic, as we walk towards a market in Juhu to buy fruits to complete a part of the three-hour weekend workshop. The workshop is a part of her collaboration with ArtOxygen, an independent organisation that aims to increase awareness of contemporary art practices.
The manual, Rasic tells us, stems from her performance called The Inside Story, which was presented in Mumbai and Hyderabad a few months ago, where she invited people to take their pick from a spread of fruits and vegetables and write about the memories it triggered. "Sitting out in winter with family and enjoying the sweet and sour taste of oranges... Now that I am away from home, I do miss those moments, those talks" or "When I used to visit my mother in the hospital and bring fruits for her" were some of the responses she received. Leandre D'Souza of ArtOxygen likens them to the well-known Proustian Moment in which French novelist Marcel Proust spoke of his involuntary memories that eating a tea-soaked cake evoked.
The beach exercise ticked off, we head towards a busy traffic junction in the vicinity. Rasic picks up a slice of watermelon we have bought from the market and climbs up a divider. She closes her eyes and sinks her teeth into the fruit. Doubtless, the action creates a certain curiosity among passersby and vehicles waiting at the traffic signal, but Rasic has managed to shut it all out. Next, it's our turn to go up the divider and do the same. As we close our eyes, the honking and the glances fade away, and all that remains is the melon slice ready to coat our palate in juicy, summery goodness. A soothing image we would love to evoke every time the city's maddening traffic tries to take over our senses.
On: Today, 4.30 pm to 7.30 pm; March 11, 9 am to 12 noon meeting point Coconut Garden, Panch Marg, Mangal Nagar, Versova
RSVP: 7777089118; email@example.com
Cost: Rs 750
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