Ribolitta. (2017) Performance with Sculpture (Balmainimal). Performed at GNF Gallery, Brussels. 

Extracts: 

I bought a loaf of bread two days ago, and it must have begun almost immediately. As soon as it was removed from its paper bag. No—sooner: as soon as it was removed from the oven, the bread began to change. It was whole, complete, for but a few moments, a minuscule fraction of time. Immediately upon its emergence from the oven, it was being bombarded by spores, bacteria, microorganisms and pathogens which sought to transgress its crust and invade its territory, seeking to break it down from aerated loaf to mushy pulp. As I took it home from the supermarket, it was beginning to stale. By the time it was out of the paper bag and on my work surface, it had already been penetrated, sullied, defiled by contagion. Indeed, only by taking our skin as a definitive impenetrable boundary are we able to see our bodies as discrete selves. Our human bodies are more accurately built from a mass of interacting selves . . . the self is not only corporeal but corporate.[1]

As these microscopic life forms entered the bread, they gradually began to colonise and take it over. The bread was no longer discrete and bounded entity. It could not be said to be bread, or only that. It became part bread, part fungus. Mycelia weaving and webbing, boring into the crumb and breaking it down into a seeping fluid, fruiting bodies forming a soft fuzz across the surface, an unpleasant seepage into the paper bag it was sitting atop, the paper bag starting to be absorbed and combined into the entity of bread-fungus. As the fungus grew, feasting on the host organism, the bread became hybrid entity. Its autonomy forever removed, the bread’s presence in this hybrid mass of living matter became less and less, until at some point the bread could be said to be no longer bread at all, just suppurating slime mould of waste matter. It completely disintegrated, a slow and unmonumental collapse, a grey and soft folding in on itself, a dusty squash of matter collapsing. The bread loaf was entirely mouldy, inedible, I had to throw it out. 

 

[1] Hird, Myra J. Naturally Queer

Staling is the term used by bakers to refer to the changes that bread undertakes upon emerging from the oven, and contrary to its popular usage, a certain amount of staling is in fact desirable. Most bread is at its optimum a day out of the oven, and the notion of freshly baked bread as the most desirable state is a comparatively recent affectation that has led to industrial bread manufacturers to introduce calcium propionate into the crumb, a chemical salt that retards fungal growth. 

 

The body is neither–while also being both–the private or the public, self or other, natural or cultural, psychic or social, instinctive or learned, genetically or environmentally determined. [2]

 

[2] Grosz, Elizabeth Volatile Bodies

Later we went back to yours, and you had a loaf of Hovis that was stale. Which is strange because you don’t like bread–but perhaps that was why it was stale. You said: I am going to put this in the food waste bin. And I insisted that you didn’t, because I read the list of E numbers and thought, these chemicals should not leach into the environment. So I took the dry, stale loaf and I toasted it—there were two slices left and the thick doorstop of the end crust, which is always my favourite anyway—so I toasted the slightly curled stale bread and ate it dry, because I thought: this is the only way to get rid of it, for it to be safely destroyed.

 

How naive of me. I don’t know why I thought of myself as some iron-clad repository which would mean that the bread would go in and would never leave. Because the terrible, the terrifying thing is that I eat the bread, and it is absorbed by me, into my blood, and then I excrete the bread, and it is absorbed into the world. In, through, out, in through, out. Cells die and are regenerated. I don’t know that any remain constant throughout my life. This is a strange thought, because:

 

Lets say I ate only bread for ten years. My entire substance would be replaced by bread and I would no longer be the same person I was ten years previously, I would be a bread person, a form of a contemporary eucharist. Attention to the material transit across bodies and environments may render it more difficult to seek refuge within fantasies of transcendence or imperviousness[3] 

[3] Alaimo, Stacy Bodily Natures 

 

 

I ingest sugar and carbohydrates and stringy chains of fatty acids, yellow, shiny and wobbling. Frothing in an acid bath of gastric juice, they are broken down into a nutritional soup that is then sucked up into my being, reconstituted as sinewy muscle and globules of fat. Chemicals, sitting heavy in my body, stored–where? In the fat cells? Heavy metals and E numbers and substances made on industrial scale enter the intimate spaces of my cells, and this must not be. I ingest chemicals, and lipids and pads of fat suck up toxins, then slowly belch them out into my bloodstream. I poison myself, over time, then excrete the poison, and poison the world, slowly dispersing toxicity in my excremental wake.