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The Scarlet & Black

Feven Getachew
Feven Getachew
May 6, 2024
Michael Lozada
Michael Lozada
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Nathan Hoffman
Nathan Hoffman
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Harvey Wilhelm `24.
Harvey Wilhelm
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Ania Chamberlin serves bread and bakes in documentation in “Live Feed”

For the past week, Ania Chamberlin ‘19 has greeted visitors to her Smith Gallery show with an unexpected art experience: homemade bread. Chamberlain served the bread to Smith Gallery-goers this week in the first segment of her two-week show, “Live Feed.”

For this first week of the exhibit, Chamberlin baked 12 loaves of sourdough bread per day and was present inside the gallery space from 9 a.m. to 5 p.m.. The Gallery had five wooden benches built by Chamberlin, four aligned in a rectangle with one in the center to hold the loaves of bread, butter and occasionally jam.

From April 8 to 12, Chamberlin sat on the bench across from the entrance to the gallery and drew anyone who came in to eat a slice of her bread. She used a mixture of flour and water for ink, which she used to draw the figures on white paper. This weekend, Chamberlin will bake the pieces of paper in the oven, a process which will caramelize the mixture and reveal the drawings.

For the second week of her show, April 15 to 19, Chamberlain will display the drawings in the Smith Gallery.

Her main influence for the exhibition is Serbian performance artist Marina Abramović, specifically Abromovic’s piece “The Artist is Present,” performed at MoMA in 2010.

“After I saw [the piece], I wanted to do that, the idea of devoting yourself so much to one thing without having so many distractions and feeling like my attention is fractured by a million notifications on my phone or my email or whatever,” said Chamberlin. “And then [I] thought, ‘Well, what do I want to do? I want to give bread to people.’”

“Live Feed” is, for Chamberlin, a way of discovering different facets of productivity outside the normal expectancy of what being productive might be.

“I wanted to see how I feel doing something drastically different for a week than what I’m made to believe that I’m supposed to do,” Chamberlin said.

“You know, like the feeling that if you don’t go to class, and if you don’t put your energy toward doing this very specific kind of work then like, you’re lazy or you’re not being productive? Well, I want to do this. I want to see how I feel when I am productive — literally producing food and art, in a different way.”

She added that the show presents an important opportunity for her to give herself permission to deal with consequences of not doing some things and instead do something with the sole reason that she wants to and she can.

With “Live Feed,” Chamberlin wants to see how people interact with each other after she gives them a space to gather and something for them to eat together.

She said that, apart from loving to bake bread and cook, she grew up socializing around food and a table. Chamberlin lived in the Grinnell College Food House for a year and a half, a project house centered around communal cooking and eating, and that experience was a major influence on her interest in food and social dynamics.

As for the drawing portion of the exhibit, she took a drawing class last semester for which she drew portraits of students who were studying at Burling as a final project. Chamberlin explained how that specific project also led her to the idea for the exhibit.

“Here’s a bunch of students at Grinnell doing this thing, but I’m documenting them. By drawing everybody who comes to the show, I’m documenting them being a part of it, and that I’ve given them bread,” she said.“What I want is for people to consider why I would do it and think about it for a second. Just like, stop for a moment. I want them to feel like they could do something that they want to do.”

Students reacted very positively to “Live Feed,” complimenting Chamberlin on the uniqueness of the exhibit.

“I think it is a good project to create a space for people to slow down for a second in their day and enjoy. Enjoy handmade crafts, which I feel is nice to get that around Grinnell,” said Nick Raphaelson ‘21 after attending the exhibit on Wednesday.

“It’s entirely interactive. I think it’s a new take on installation art, almost, in that you’re part of it. It’s a lot of fun,” said Tucker Haddock ‘21, who also attended. “It’s a really excellent exhibit — totally different from everything else I’ve seen in the gallery.”

Ania Chamberlin ‘19 created an interactive Smith Gallery show, “Live Feed,” in which she serves bread to visitors and creates oven-baked sketches of them eating. Photo by Sarina Lincoln.
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