Memory Popsicles is a participatory installation that invites people to interpret and consume art mainly through their sense of taste. This exhibition can only be experienced by eating the art piece, which means destroying or transforming its meaning. This is a sharing experience and an exercise of experimental storytelling that talks through a multilayered flavoured item.
The first edition of Memory Popsicles took place in September 2018 in Teurastamo’s Flavor Studio A21 as part of Helsinki Design Week. This event received around sixty participants that were invited to taste the flavours of memories developed through the lab in May. This exhibition could only be experienced by the act of eating and digesting the art piece, which meant the destruction or transformation of its meaning. One of the main goals of this project was to immerse participants into an exercise of experimental storytelling that talked through a multilayered flavoured item and explored the possibilities of communication of metaphors through taste. This project attempted to create a poetic and metaphorical eating experience that challenged and questioned a reality that is framed mostly through our senses of vision and hearing. The main question that was asked to the participants while tasting the memories was: What can the taste of this memory tell us about the story? What is happening in this memory? Where does it take place? What emotions are contained inside it? As the memories were being eaten, their taste was simultaneously documented through the writing of its interpretation.
This juxtaposition between written language and the language of taste exemplifies the existing relationship between the performativity of eating and the performativity of writing. What can come out from this parallel exercise of performativities? After the tasting of the memories, the participants encountered a written fragment of a memory, printed on each popsicle stick. This message guided them 99 into finding the original memories, presented in the publication/cookbook of the exhibition Cooking From Memory. But before that, their written interpretations of taste were collected and will be published as the second volume of the cookbook. The purpose of this is to present how eating is a constant exercise of interpretation and re-‐interpretation of subjectivities. Can these subjectivities meet at some point? Or will they always divert to different directions? Through the exhibition, participants were required to focus completely on their taste experience, which is why a small group of people per hour was welcome.
Visual stimulation was almost non-existent so it would not trigger expectation or pre-‐conceptions about the taste. Memory Popsicles and the Cooking from Memory Cookbook were created to explore the complexity of layers that memory is built upon and to also expand the scopes of communication of symbols and metaphors in contemporary art. Can we share memories beyond oral tradition and books? Can our own subjective interpretation of taste lead us to different conclusions about the stories we are consuming? To share our memories with others means also to share a little bit of our own history and identity. What if people could have a taste of it?
Memory Popsicles was born for the first time as a prototype project I built in 2016 when I started to imagine the experience and the consequence of recalling a memory. Can this process be comparable with the practice of ingesting and digesting? Memory Popsicles consists of the designing, cooking and tasting of seven flavours of popsicles that represent different memories. I want to warmly thank Vejay Krishan, Max Ryynänen, Arlene Tucker, Ksenia Yurkova, Ru Zham, and Victoria Zolotukhina for donating one of their memories to this project. Together with the participants, the narrative of each popsicle and its taste was conceptualized, based on the emotions and feelings of each memory. These six frozen memories, tell us a story of the past through their flavour. The decision of making popsicles for this project relates to my experience of remembrance, which involves always some type of remoteness.
Memories are frozen in time, they say. If we take them out of the freezer of our mind, they might as well melt and evaporate away. Memory has an aspect of “forced permanence” where we make a huge amount of effort to maintain memory as un-‐touched and as pure as we can. Failing every time. I relate this forced exercise of remembering to the amount of energy it involves to keep food frozen. We keep meals frozen so we can eat them later, and they won’t go bad. Next time we taste them, days later, weeks later, months later, years later: they won’t be fresh and they won’t taste the same, but they will be still eatable. The food won’t be warm as the first time we ate it, but at least we will be able to enjoy it again, in some other way. To store memories somewhere makes us feel safe, as we know that even though we might not own our future at least we might own our past, and once in a while, we taste different moments of it again to know that is real That it was real.