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From the concept to the project
This hanukkiah is the result of a long process of artistic creation in which, as in all my works, art is a synthetic perception that crosses the boundaries between painting, sculpture, music and literature, blending visual art with culinary art. Traditionally the lamp is placed on the table and is lit at mealtimes. It is therefore somehow linked to food. Food involves all five senses: sight, hearing, touch, smell and taste. At the same time I analysed the abstract concept, abandoning the lamp as an object to consider the lamp as a source of light symbolising a spiritual dimension. These two considerations struck me: I was hit by an indefinable yet very strong sense of déjà vu: I had seen something, something I thought could be the key to my food-light-lamp project. For two years I searched through my library, which contains almost ten thousand books, but to no avail. It was only much later that I was eventually able to reconstruct that indefinable thing I had in mind: it was while I was in a big supermarket in the Chinese district of Paris, when my eyes fell upon a box of eight dried herrings. That was it! I had seen that shape for the first time at the Manger en Chine exhibition at the Alimentarium, the food museum of the Nestlé Foundation in Vevey, Switzerland. From then on it was simple. The fishes would be the branches of the lamp. But where was the link between China, food and hanukkiah? The answer lies in the concept of coincidentia oppositorum which has always fascinated me: fish is food, but it is also water, moisture; placing fire (the candle) on water is a paradoxical notion that involves an understanding of the complexity of the symbols. In 2006 I presented the work at the Hardcore diner exhibition at the Leo Koenig Gallery in New York. It did not have a base though. I only found that base last year — an animal’s thigh bone. The bone symbolises sacrifice, and this allowed me to develop the idea of food-water-fire- sacrifice. It also adds an inter-religious aspect. Then there is the pun, the similarity in the sound of the words kosher and coscia (Italian word for thigh). The work was only completed for the exhibition in Casale and for the Museo dei Lumi.