RCA: Research from the Edge of Our Thinking – Art per Os

Art per Os means, “Art by way of the mouth”. This title summarises my struggle with my research question as I tried to define exactly what I was aiming to achieve. My research began with the question, “Can food be art?”, and has evolved from that point to, “Can art be tasted?”, and finally, “A critical evaluation of the chemical senses in art” (there were several more variations in-between each of those revisions.) The evolution of my research question has come about as a result of the knowledge that I acquired during throughout the research. What started out as a good question to ask became erroneous for reasons of argumentative logic. For instance, the question “Can food be art?” became erroneous for two reasons: 1) food has been used in the creation of artwork for a rather long time, so to ask if it can be used as a material in the creation of artwork was redundant. 2) The focus of the question of material, rather than on the senses of perception, seemed to be less effective. The argument shouldn’t be one of the appropriateness of artistic materials but on the validity of the senses. We have visual art, sonic art, sculpture (amongst other practices) appeals to tactility, but the senses that perceive by way of the mouth (per Os) are those which have been consciously excluded from art.From that point to the final research question, the variation was owing to technical reasons. What is commonly understood as taste, the sensory experience that takes place when something is consumed, is actually the combination of three senses: taste, that which takes place on the tongue; olfaction, responsible for flavour perception and located in the olfactory receptors in the nasal cavity; and chemesthesis, the feeling of touch, temperature and chemical reactions in the mouth (i.e. menthol, picant, carbonation). As a result, it is illogical to separate the chemical senses in a discussion about sensory perception in the mouth, which by default must also include olfaction (smells/flavours). As such, a theory for ‘taste’ must therefore also include ‘smell’.

The paper that I presented was the infancy of my research, but it demonstrated the logic of the question that I sought to address. Additionally, it was also the beginning of my lecturing experience – and a somewhat painful one at that.

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