What is art? What is childhood? What is comfort? These are questions that artist Jennifer Rubell seemed to pose at her "Just Right" exhibit held in the back of Miami's Rubell Family Collection (showing from 9am to noon until Sunday). A nod to the fable Goldilocks, the exhibit is another version of Ms. Rubell's large-scale participatory food projects, which some call performance art and others call breakfast.
When we arrived at the RFC earlier this morning, we walked past the crowds ogling the Collection's "How Soon Now" show (including the well-heeled W editor Stefano Tonchi), glanced at the Nobu station where sushi chefs were preparing guests "lunch boxes" and flitted past the crowded espresso stand, which was of course packed. (After all, what gallerina in her right mind can go twenty minutes without a shot of hand-pressed crema?) Eventually, we came upon the unassuming hole smashed through the reinforced concrete security wall that surrounds the collection. (Days earlier Ms. Rubell broke through the wall herself with a sledgehammer so that guests of all ages would obediently duck their heads and squeeze through the sliver of open space.)
Intrigued, we crouched through Ms. Rubell's proverbial rabbit hole into her exhibit and unwittingly into my childhood. Once on the other side, it seemed as if we had walked into a Lewis Carroll alternate universe where people walked along a gravel road, gravitating towards a run-down cottage with nobody in it (Just like Goldilocks!). The house was the kind squatters would find quite lovely (Just like Goldilocks!). As we entered the dwelling, in the first room we found a table covered in hundreds of small, ceramic, glossy white bowls. Taking one, we walked into the next room flaunting a countertop of silver spoons. (The ironic connotation of Ms. Rubell's own silver spoon upbringing was not lost.)
In the next room? A room of 40 crockpots. Yes, those virtuous vats of wholesome goodness, which mother used to boil meats in, simmer stews, or in this case, whip up some good ol' fashioned oatmeal. Crockpot after crockpot of that gooey mess that you loved or hated as a child. The kind that your mother would serve you on the first cold day of autumn, that you kicked and screamed about eating, yet you secretly loved the hot soothing on your throat. Each crockpot had its own ladle, which guests used to pour porridge into their small bowls. "That's a lot of oatmeal," one guest remarked. Indeed. It was impossible not to smirk at the image of forty-something curators and gallerists clumsily serving themselves the most rustic and childish food imaginable.
In the final room, two tables flaunted heaps of brown sugar packets and a neatly stacked mountain of bright red Sun-Maid raisin boxes. Outside, with nowhere to sit, grown men and women stood or squatted while they quietly ate their bowls of piping-hot porridge. After getting our fill, we discarded our bowls and spoons in cardboard boxes and quickly returned to reality, back through the rabbit hole and into the land of Nobu bento boxes and hand-pressed espresso. Leaving late guests to wonder, "Who's been eating our porridge?"
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