“Beiti” evokes history’s heady scent and life’s impermance

Detail of ‘Beiti’ by Laurent Mareschal. Photo by Tami Notsani, courtesy of the artist and Galerie Marie Cini, via TimeOut London

A couple weeks ago I posted about a Japanese TV program in which celebrity contestants guessed whether or not household items were made of candy (and then took a bite to find out). As a followup, I thought I’d share a recent post from Twilley Nicola of Edible Geography that spotlights another transformation of foodstuffs into household goods. In it, she considers a fascinating artwork—a “tile” floor covering made entirely of ground spices—that is currently on display at the Victoria and Albert Museum in London. As detailed at the exhibit’s website, the artist, Laurent Mareschal,

is concerned with the impermanence of our lives. He often uses Palestinian sources for his work, acknowledging the particular impermanence of Palestinian lives. His large, ephemeral, site-specific works draw on everyday materials such as spices, soap and food. With these he creates patterns based on, among other things, the decorative floor tiles in old houses. His work is deliberately fragile, and Mareschal expects his audiences to participate in transforming it – for example, by eating the food.

The work is part of an exhibit of finalists for the Jameel Prize, “an international award for contemporary art and design inspired by Islamic tradition. Its aim is to explore the relationship between Islamic traditions of art, craft and design and contemporary work as part of a wider debate about Islamic culture and its role today.”

As Twilley describes,

Laurent Mareschal’s “Beiti” is a carpet made of spice, carefully sieved through stencils into tiled patterns inspired by Arabic geometry. I saw it last month at London’s Victoria & Albert Museum…. In the exhibit’s low light, the carpet seems to float above the black floor, warming up its corner with a slightly fuzzy glow and a faint gingery, spicy scent. In an accompanying video, Mareschal, whose work typically deals impermanence and, in particular, the Palestinian condition, explains that the spice tiles are a deliberate play between ephemerality and the almost subliminal longevity of olfactory memory.

Head here for Twilley’s full post (thoughtful and fascinating, per usual). Also check out the video that Twilley mentions of Mareschal discussing his piece and demonstrating the painstaking technique he used, and then have a look at this time-lapse video that compresses days of work to create the V&A installation into less than a minute.

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