INTERVIEW: Zara Worth | NARC. | Reliably Informed | Music and Creative Arts News for Newcastle and the North East

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Image: Economics of the Kitchen (2018) Still from performance to video for Instagram

Around 18 months ago my suggestions feed on Instagram presented me with a video of someone cutting up celery, and of course I had to find out what was going on (nobody hates seeing good celery going to waste more than I). It turns out I had stumbled upon a piece of work from artist and writer Zara Worth entitled A drawing made by cutting up my body weight in celery (2016-17), which also happens to be part of her first solo show opening on Thursday 9th August at Vane Gallery. FEED, which runs at the Newcastle gallery until Saturday 22nd September, is a body of work concerned with people’s use of and relationship with social media, online cultures and technology.

The beginnings of Zara’s choice to look into social media as a form for both making and displaying her art, she tells me, came from a perfect storm of artists, works and tutors, with a lecture from Michael Feher on The Age of Appreciation being the final catalyst. “It completely blew my mind. It made me reflect on the significance of the online platforms which have permeated our lives.” Her first work after this was the very same celery cutting piece I had stumbled upon, which was in part a response to ‘clean eating’ trends spurred on by sites like Instagram.

Food, and the idea of consumption are clearly important areas of exploration for Zara. “Food is nearly always about much more than just sustenance; it carries with it complex significance on personal and cultural levels.” She explains. “At the heart of my practice is an interest in belief systems, and I have been really struck by the intensity of the ideologies tied to eating trends which circulate and grow on Instagram.” Indeed, the title itself is a clever word play, referring to the newsfeeds most of us swipe through and consume on a daily basis. Another of Zara’s works, Economics of the Kitchen (An A to Z), is a direct re-imagining of Martha Rosler’s 1975 work Semiotics of the Kitchen, with Zara performing in her own kitchen, posted to Instagram in the same way so many food bloggers continue to do.

At the heart of my practice is an interest in belief systems, and I have been really struck by the intensity of the ideologies tied to eating trends which circulate and grow on Instagram

While Rosler’s work very directly acknowledged and addressed the oppression of traditional ‘female roles’, Zara’s update looks more closely at the oppression coming from what she terms ‘the economy of appreciation’: “distinctly neoliberal pressure to accumulate appreciation in the form of likes, comments and followers, subject to adhering to certain performances and images of identity. This is all certainly a feminist concern; particularly in relation to food and images of the female body, but this culture affects everyone else too.”

By taking her work back into the physical realm of a gallery space, Zara hopes to create a more sustained in-depth conversation around the issues raised. “This is why I’m really looking forward to the public talk, workshop and seminar we’ve programmed [on Friday 10th-Saturday 11th August] – I think people really want to discuss our contemporary conditions resulting from the age of new media. Technology is changing so fast, and is increasingly embedded in our lives, yet by the time we reflect on this experience technology changes again, our own processing of our experience is always at least one step behind the development of technology derived culture. It’s a surprisingly emotive topic.”

FEED by Zara Worth is at Vane Gallery, Newcastle from Thursday 9th August to Saturday 22nd September.

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