Conventional wisdom dictates that our senses — sight, sound, smell, taste and touch — have a hierarchy. Sight is at the top of the list, with sound running a close second. Today, the technology to capture sight and sound are readily available to the average consumer. These senses are widely considered the most important in recording history and creating and experiencing art. But what about the other three: smell, taste and touch? Can they really be ignored completely?
In a new Art Practical article, artist Sita Kuratomi Bhautik takes a look at the historic roots of the sense hierarchy (and its social, racial and cultural implications) as well as some artists creating work that challenges it.
Among the artists in the story:
The National Bitter Melon Council (NBMC), a collective — consisting of Hiroko Kikuchi, Jeremy Chi-Ming Liu, Andi Sutton, and Misa Saburi — devoted to “the cultivation of a vibrant, diverse community through the promotion and distribution of Bitter Melon.” better known to Nikkei as “goya.” They create projects, events, and festivals to celebrate the health, social, culinary, and creative possibilities of the vegetable better known to Nikkei as “goya.”
Sanjit Sethi who created the Kuni Wada Bakery Remembrance (2008), located at the bakery’s former site. The project is an industrial box emits the aroma of baked cookies and doughnuts twice a day, with a plaque that reads:
On December 9, 1941 in a climate of fear and distrust from the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor, the Kuni Wada Bakery located at 1310 Madison Avenue was shut down. The two Japanese families, the Nakajimas and the Kawais who ran the bakery were arrested and forced to leave Memphis. This Remembrance attempts to honor the Bakery, the contributions of the Nakajimas and Kawais to Memphis and to those whose lives were touched by a small bakery known for its exquisite doughnuts.
For more on food and the senses, check out Kearney Street Workshops’s “A Sensory Feast” exhibit, running through the Feb. 24 and check out “Bitter is Better?: A Presentation of the National Bitter Mellon Council” also at Kearney St. on Feb. 16 from 7-9 p.m. Info at KearnyStreet.org.
Ben Hamamoto is a writer born and raised in the San Francisco Bay Area. He’s been published in the Oakland Tribune and has written for New American Media’s YO! Youth Outlook and the Nichi Bei Times. He is a research manager for the Health Horizons Program at the Institute for the Future. He also edits Nikkei Heritage, the National Japanese American Historical Society’s official magazine and contributes to Nichi Bei News.