Lisa Myers & Autumn Chacon


Lisa Myers and Autumn Chacon: Noise Cooking (2012): Performance at the Art Gallery of Ontario. Courtesy Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto.Lisa Myers and Autumn Chacon: Noise Cooking (2012): Performance at the Art Gallery of Ontario. Courtesy Art Gallery of Ontario, Toronto.

By Ellyn Walker

Lisa Myers & Autumn Chacon
Art Gallery of Ontario (in collaboration with Planet IndigenUS)

To October 28, 2012

Noise Cooking, a culinary interventionist performance piece within the AGO’s Toronto Now space is exactly what its title suggests: noisy. Originating as an informal collaborative experiment during residencies at the Banff Centre for the Arts earlier this year, independent artist/chef/musician and curator Lisa Myers (Toronto) and visual artist Autumn Chacon (Albuquerque, New Mexico) came together through personal and cultural rituals of performance, cookery and sound. The Toronto Now series, an extension of the gallery’s contemporary art programming (until recently curated by Michelle Jacques), focuses on the work of artists’ today who offer the public unusual ways to engage with visual art practices, through the orientation of both space and the institution. Noise Cooking, a formalization of the artists’ earlier study, presents the viewer with food for thought, sound for digestion and image for taste.

The opening night reception for Noise Cooking revealed a packed east gallery room full of curious onlookers and hungering spectators. Myers and Chacon are the central figures within the room, perched over a cooking island amassed with bowls, utensils and fruits that construct tools for conviviality and appetite. Articulating the conditions of food preparation even more so than the chefs’ concentrated stances and compositional gestures are the sounds emanating from within their hands, as it suddenly becomes clear through following the utensils’ visual cordage that their culinary equipment is microphoned and amplifies their sound. Instruments such as an electro-harmonics big muff, Wah-wah pedal, Chorus pedal, Boss over-drive pedal, Morley Emerald Echo pedal are controlled by the chefs. With this, each cut, chop, peel, slice, stir, spoon, whisk and mush becomes a greater echo of what their physical performance lets on; creating a larger soundtrack that mediates between sight and sound.

After a theatrical hour passes, Myers and Chacon re-enact cultural identities of First Nations cuisine, of domesticity, and of making-as-performance. Our expectations of ritual are shifted from the traditional to the non-traditional. Serving recipes that act more acutely as musical compositions, where the chefs are the composers and the utensils are the instruments, our mouths become a site for reception, rather than taste. We are invited to experience the musical recipes we have been witness to, including compositions such as guacamole, wild rice salad, blueberry tarts, buffalo stew and Bannock.

Displayed on the wall behind the artists are four video screens that display the intricate culinary motions of these two women, who appear both at home within the domestic landscape and the formal gallery environment. While the opening performance enlivens the audience’s preconception of what ‘noise cooking’ is, the poetic documentation screened within the space offers insight into the possibilities of movement and sound associated with the preparation of food.

Working with local culinary staff, kitchens and First Nations artists, including Ann Yarymovich from the AGO kitchens, Bonnie Devine and Bev Koski, visitors have the opportunity to engage as subjects within the piece by taking a seat at the centre table and ordering food or drinks that will inevitably add to the preceding soundtrack, as the under-table microphones remain in place and ‘listening.’

While the exhibition by Myers and Chacon started with a bang, the duration of the piece continues to add to the soundtrack of possibility tied to these artists’ investigation of movement and sound. The rhythmic visual documentation that accompanies this piece contributes to viewers’ understanding of the performance of cooking while, at the same time, our assumptions are grounded in the residual echoes of culinary orchestration. Noise Cooking offers a unique connection to a local meal and a global sound.