Now that I have a plants blog, I carry a camera around.
So when I came upon a table of weirdly undelectable foodstuffs on the third floor of the Art Gallery of Alberta, outside the hall in which the Andy Warhol exhibition was to open the next day, I was ready. (It turns out there is more in the world to look at than plants.)
Views through the gallery doors were blocked by black curtains. No peaking, you public. The media were inside, exclusively. I had seen their cars in the street. Had this food (as it appeared to be) been spread out for them? I waited for a group of chatting young people in uniforms and lanyards to move away from the table — members of a hired-in marketing force, I guessed. They dispersed, and I brought out my camera.
A lingering publicist came up to me, oversmiling. “Are you just here today?” I knew what she meant. Was I anyone special, anyone she should care to know, anyone on whose needs she should lavish wide-eyed attention, anyone whose questions she should pretend to find exciting and important? Or was I just somebody who had come into the art gallery to look at the art — was I just here today.
“Yes, looking around,” I said. “Who are you feeding this to?” I waved at the suspicious food-like stuffs.
“Oh, nobody. It’s not to eat. It’s a display for a catering company.”
“Advertising,” I said.
Amongst the trays and platters and baskets of food were sheaves of cards promoting the show: “Warhol Manufactured.” Nowhere did the name of a catering company appear. The sweet-seeming publicist had lied to me. It was all right. I did not need to know the truth. I was just here today.
“Is it real food, or…?” (It could have been acrylic, or play-dough, or plaster. Why prepare real food, that much of it, for display?)
A slightly older, sterner member of the media-stroking team had joined us.
“It’s food,” she said, though I had not asked her.
“The cones, what are they made of? Are they edible?”
“Bamboo,” the second one said. She made no attempt to seem pleasant. She knew I was not media. I was just here today. Her tone conveyed to the younger one that I was not anyone they should be spending good time on. Get back to work.
“Bamboo, really,” I said. But they were moving away.
All right, then. I got busy with my camera.
Paul from Global was downstairs, the older media-minder informed the younger one. He had been given a hot dog. He wanted an interview. The younger one understood. That Paul from Global wanted an interview was a triumph for the team. TV coverage! What was unsaid was what might happen if Paul from Global finished his hot dog before the interviewee was ready for him. Would he require further feeding? Or leave in a huff? Turn diva? Start chewing the scenery? Paul from Global, it was implied, was like a child prevented from crying only by timely application of a Rice Krispies square, but he could become fed up with his treat at any moment. Paul from Global was not just here today.