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Beautiful Food: Representing the Gap between the Production and Representation of Food

Hughes, HA Beautiful Food: Representing the Gap between the Production and Representation of Food In: Cultural Studies Now!, 2007-06-15 - 2007-06-17, University of East London.

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Erwin Wagenhofer's documentary film WE FEED THE WORLD (2005) has become the most successful documentary film in Austria. It is a film that portrays the mass production methods used in modern agriculture. As a film it seeks to educate viewers who - as one worker in the film puts it - have lost contact with the reality of food production or factory farming. The images which move from tomatoes to aubergines to fish and to chickens are accompanied by interviews concerning quality versus low prices, working conditions, regional development, European regulation and standardization. This paper aims to explore the presentation of food production issues and the display of food products in Wagenhofer’s film in the context of current campaigns aimed at changing consumer behaviour. While political issues such as the effects of privatization on Eastern European agriculture, the European Union’s Common Agricultural Policy and Common Fisheries Policy, and the problem of malnutrition in Brazil and India are discussed, the images portray the techniques used to produce huge quantities of food. These images are often strikingly beautiful, reminiscent not only of the images used for food advertising but also of the exploration of raw materials to be found in conceptual and minimalist art, particularly art that explores materials. The attractiveness of the produce together with the brutality of the production process in the documentary film represents the ambivalent position of the contemporary European consumer. This paper sets this film in the context of other European documentary films referring to the production and consumption of food as a problem in contemporary European society: films such as Agnes Varda's Les Glaneurs et la Glaneuse (2000) about the law and ethics around the harvesting of left-overs, Jonathan Nossiter's Mondovino (2004) about the importation of modern new world wine-making techniques into old Europe, popular taste and US takeover bids, and a second Austrian film that appeared in 2005, Nicolaus Geyrhalter's Unser täglich Brot (Our Daily Bread) which presents similar imagery to Wagenhofer’s as a collage without commentary. These are explored together as a debate on the contribution of aesthetics to the perception of mass production as beautiful but ethically flawed.

Item Type: Conference or Workshop Item (UNSPECIFIED)
Divisions : Faculty of Arts and Social Sciences > School of Literature and Languages
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Depositing User : Symplectic Elements
Date Deposited : 16 May 2017 15:17
Last Modified : 07 Mar 2019 11:18

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