Food is missing from too many American tables and in the short-term, between record unemployment and Covid-19’s impact on prices, the appalling situation promises to get worse.
Simultaneously two gallerists attempting to keep an oar in the water while galleries are closed worldwide during the pandemic selected to promote a 1990 installation by Cuban-born visual artist Felix Gonzalez-Torres involving a cookie.
Hunger in America
According to Thomas Franck of cnbc.com writing in mid-May “The Labor Department reported Tuesday that prices U.S. consumers paid for groceries jumped 2.6% in April, the largest one-month pop since February 1974. The spike in supermarket prices was broad based and impacted items from broccoli and ham to oatmeal and tuna.
“The price of the meats, poultry, fish and eggs category rose 4.3%, fruits and vegetables climbed 1.5%, cereals and bakery products advanced 2.9%, and dairy goods gained 1.5%.”
Lauren Bauer writing in the brookings.edu blog reported a 460 percent increase in mothers who said the children in their households 12 years and under “were not eating enough because we just couldn’t afford enough food.”
Interactive Cookie Installation
It is against this background that Gonzalez-Torres’ “Untitled (Fortune Cookie Corner),” is being installed at 1,000 sites around the globe. It is promoted/resurrected by Andrea Rosen, show curator and director of The Felix Gonzalez-Torres Foundation who is partnering with German art dealer David Zwirner. Sarrah Cascone wrote about the exhibitions on artnet.com.
Felix Gonzalez-Torres’ “Untitled (Fortune Cookie Corner)” Photo: artnet.com
The original installation had 10 thousand fortune cookies piled up in the corner of a room. Today there will be from 240 to 2,000 cookies featured in the homes, museums or public places that Rosen selected via her choice of participants. Viewers are encouraged to help themselves to a cookie.
Cascone wrote: “The owner needs to follow specific but open-ended parameters in manifesting the work, which can be installed in more than one place at a time—making it perfect for our current moment, when much of the world is under indefinite lockdown.”
The curators, artist’s friends and colleagues invited to participate supply their own cookies. Rosen said “halfway through, everyone has to regenerate it to the original size. So everyone has the opportunity to experience both the potential loss within the piece, and also the notions of rebuilding and regeneration that is a very important part of the work.”
Rosen, told Cascone: “This is one of the only works in the world that can travel and be accessible right now. There’s so many people right now trying to do incredible online projects. Felix can actually afford people a physical experience with an artwork—and not just looking at it, but thinking about it, and their involvement and what it means to them.”
My post isn’t about the validity of the installation: It passed the test within the art community. However the timing strikes a false note for me for involving food in a frivolous way at a time when it is missing from so many tables. What do you think?
Even if the piles were made up of basic comestibles accessible to people needing help, the fact that they would have to reach down on the floor for the food and take only one or two packages lacks respect for the situation’s severity. Your thoughts?
I had a boss who couldn’t say “I don’t know.” He’d ask for a PR proposal and would make up information about a prospective client rather than admit he hadn’t had time to read background.
We’ve all known people who no matter what you mention have already read the book, seen the movie, eaten at the restaurant when it opened, attended the play in previews, are up to speed on technology and are familiar with the latest jargon in every industry–or so they say. [It’s exhausting.]
We are used to pundits who share their intel with appropriate scientific backup and/or data to reassure. But that’s not what’s happening now. And it’s hard to accept. The twists and turns as Covid-19 plays out astound as they keep happening: You might carry and spread the virus to others yet not feel sick; children at first free from danger now are not. At first we were advised by some to physicians to disinfect groceries before putting them away and now the CDC advises you needn’t. [I still do.]
In spite of the uncertainty there are people who assert that they know for sure what’s best for communities, industries and fellow citizens. With equal assurance others maintain that they are wrong. You almost can’t blame those who crowd beaches the old fashioned way or mock social distancing and other suggestions to help stem the spread of the virus–as the advice and conclusions are quixotic. We’re all grasping at straws with hope for a cure or a vaccine ASAP.
To figure out next steps the president tossed the ball to governors and governors to local officials. With all the opinions and latest “facts” shooting at us from all directions citizens are ultimately left to decide what to do. When local restaurants open for business, are you in? Is a day at the beach in your near future? Planning a vacation that involves hotel stays? Are you unsettled by the ambiguities regarding Covid-19? Are you secure in the paths you’ve chosen to follow?
Most people I know appear to be adjusting to the pandemic. What’s no surprise? Stress and anxiety are magnifying some personalities. The attempt to readjust can happen after any shock such as the death of a spouse and I’ve noticed this in some of my acquaintances lately. If one is usually generous, she tends to go overboard; if nervous, he freaks more easily. Hoarding is another tendency that has impacted a few.
Some with enough capital to support three families for a lifetime, if chronically anxious about money, become crazed over a perceived delayed pittance. The resourceful are ingenious in supplementing dwindling incomes.
Our chronic political divide isn’t helping keep lives in balance. Know anyone who waits until now to cut off all contact even though differences in political philosophy have been clear for decades?
Some dig in their heels to extremes refusing to face scientific evidence. “Masks can save your life” and the lives of others NY Governor Cuomo said again at his news conference on May 23, echoed by governors–both blue and red–Dr. Deborah Birx and countless others. Nevertheless doubting Thomas’s proudly prance around unprotected in public mimicking the exposed mouth and nose of a peacock-proud president. Even the “New York Tough” moniker doesn’t dilute the inference of weakness to those who interpret being told what to do as unmanly. Experts can’t convince them that their reasons are faulty–actually dangerous–if they think that “real men don’t wear masks.” [There are still drivers who won’t engage seat belts and parents who refuse to vaccinate their kids.]
Have you noticed in yourself and others behavior that represents an extreme personality trait?
We’ve heard ad nauseam about TP, paper towel, mask and disinfectant wipe shortages in retail stores–I haven’t seen a container of Clorox wipes in weeks nor will I unless I’m there when they are delivered according to a Wall Street Journal article–but now there’s a bicycle shortage and hints of an impending scarcity of meat as well.
Ironically the pandemic might create a healthier population just as it has cleaned the air and waterways in cities worldwide. According to an @CNN tweet, the journal Nature Climate Change reported global carbon emissions dropped 17 percent between January and April.
Bicycles Built for Two
It’s not just in NYC that some anticipate riding their bikes to work instead of taking a subway. Christina Goldbam wrote “Thinking of Buying a Bike? Get Ready for a Very Long Wait. The United States is facing a shortage of bicycles as anxiety over public transportation and a desire to exercise has sent the demand surging.”
Portland Photo: bikeportland.org
She reported in her New York Times article, “Some bicycle shops in Brooklyn are selling twice as many bikes as usual and drawing blocklong lines of customers. A chain of shops in Phoenix is selling three times the number of bikes it typically does. A retailer in Washington, D.C., sold all its entry-level bikes by the end of April and has fielded more preorders than ever in its 50-year history.”
Goldbam wrote: “Today fewer than 1 percent of New Yorkers commute by bike. In Portland, which has the highest percentage of cycling commuters of any American city, only 6.3 percent of commuters ride bikes. By comparison, in Copenhagen nearly half of all trips to work and school take place on bicycles.”
During the 1980 NYC transit strike I rode my bicycle from Brooklyn to Manhattan. The Brooklyn Bridge was jammed. It will be interesting to see how social distancing plays out at rush hour if bicycle transportation really becomes a thing in cities.
High on the Hog
As for meat, according to Saloni Sardana of businessinsider.com, the shortage is one of workers and of transport to stores–not of beef, pork, lamb etc.
Some analysts anticipate consumers moving to plant-based alternatives. Sardana also reported: “Kevin Beasley, chief investment officer at VAI, said: ‘By incorporating analytics and AI, meat companies will be able to ensure essential products are available in the right place at the right time and proactively identify breaks in the existing supply chain.'”
In addition, as the nation’s pocketbooks shrink, so their choices of cuts of meat will navigate to less expensive ones.
What shortages are you experiencing? Are you tempted to travel by bicycle? Do you think that a significant number of commuters will opt to bicycle to work once offices open up? Have meat prices increased in your grocery store?
Photo: Greymount Paper & Press
Chances are you may have ordered something online during the pandemic even if it’s not something you normally do.
Photo: Greymount Paper & Press
I wanted a special card to send a college grad and liked one I saw on a Greymount Paper & Press sponsored Facebook ad [photo above]. The well-designed website was promising.
I prefer feeling the paper and ensuring that the printing is crisp, but these days that isn’t in the, uh, cards. I took advantage of a promotion and bought four. They arrived promptly from the artist/owner of the press, Carlene Gleman, along with a professional invoice with a cheery handwritten note on it and two bonus surprise cards.
Photo: Greymount Paper & Press
I dashed off an email to thank Carlene and tell her how much I liked the cards. She responded: “It’s always lovely to meet a fellow quality-aholic. Thank you for your kind words! Customers like you are one of the reasons I get out of bed each morning with a smile. That, and my sweet little family who are currently trapped in the house with me for Week #4,900! Ha. From one upstate New Yorker to a downstate New Yorker, stay safe and be well :-)”
I forwarded this note to a friend who also loves–and sends–the best cards and she said she ordered some from Greymount too. I gave Carlene a heads up, said that my friend had recently been furloughed and she wrote “Thanks for letting me know about ___, I am going to sneak a few extra goodies into her package as a cheer-up.”
In contrast, a friend’s experience ordering flowers from 1-800-Flowers on May 4th for delivery Mother’s Day weekend was inexcusable. Not once did the company update her. She had to waste her time tracking them down in countless follow-ups.
The arrangement was meant for her best friend and her friend’s mother, who is deathly ill. Hers was a hard deadline, possibly more imminent than Mother’s Day, which she made clear each time she called customer service as each subsequent promised delivery day came and went. The upshot: In spite of her diligent surveillance the flowers never arrived, the company returned her money and she ordered a bouquet from a local florist. During her last conversation a 1-800-Flowers customer service supervisor told her the delay was because of Covid-19. If a company has no mechanism to update customers and if they cannot fulfill an order they should not accept one.
These examples of a generous small business that nurtures customers and an overwhelmed big business is statistically insignificant. But I wonder if such differences in customer service might augur the future of success of the retail landscape during the pandemic–what do you think?
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