Marlo Kronberg asks TAKE-OUT artist Anja Hitzenberger 5 questions about her series, “Chinese Fast Food:”
ML: At least superficially, this series is a vast departure from your previous work. What was the initial artistic attraction to these Beijing fast food booths?
AH: My work is about people and the relationship of the body to architecture and space. I spent two months in the fall working on photography projects in Beijing, and when I discovered the food stalls in the Olympic Park there, I was really intrigued by these small, totally artificial confined spaces. The way the saturated visual displays of the food stalls contrasted with the boredom of the workers inspired me very much.
MK: Can you describe the general atmosphere of the Olympic park?
AH: The Olympics took place in Beijing in 2008 and not much has been going on in the park since. The park is a vast and flat area, with two stadiums opposite of each other that are now being visited by tourists. The food tent was located between the two stadiums but it was removed a day after I photographed there the last time this past October.
MK: What do you think this body of work articulates about our current international culture – and, specifically, Chinese culture?
AH: I think East and West is melting together more and more. Most fast food around the world is now the same, since McDonald’s is basically everywhere, as well as Pizza Hut and many other food chains. But one reason why I called this series “Chinese Fast Food” is because the food in this tent was supposed to represent Chinese specialties from different regions in China — which some of it was — but in reality most of it was simply bad food: mass produced ingredients, deep fried food, spaghetti with tomato sauce and “Twist Potato” simply aren’t traditional Chinese dishes.
MK: Which is your favorite photo from this series and why?
AH: That’s a very difficult question…
I like “Chinese Fast Food #1” very much (the red image with the guy looking at his cellphone). It is probably the most overloaded image visually. Many people have asked me if this photo is an art installation, but it really is just a photograph. I did not manipulate any of the photos in this series in any way. (See images above)
Then there is “Chinese Fast Food #13 (the “Twist Potato” image): I love how the worker just stands there, with his “cartoon” ears coming out of his head, the faces that are painted onto the potatoes on the bottom of the picture, how non-Chinese this food is. And I find it funny that the collection of photos on the right side of the picture feature movie and music stars from Korea (!) eating Twist Potatoes.” (See images above)
And “Chinese Fast Food #2 (the coconut guy): I like this image very much compositionally. The pile of coconuts in the foreground, the green plastic leaves in the background, and in the center the cool looking guy who looks right into the camera. (See images above)
MK: How do you think this series will inform your new works?
AH: Food and consumption has interested me for some time now. I’m inspired by the work of authors Eric Schlosser (“Fast Food Nation”) and Michael Pollan (“In Defense of Food”), who write about eating habits and the way society deals with food. So I think I want to do more work related to food in the future.
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