A living systems painting, I Yam what I Yam constructed of potatoes, yams, dirt, and eggs filled with tempera paint in 1988. This was a living systems work involving interaction and participation first and then growth/evolution afterward through interaction with a natural environment as sun and water entered the system. It was also meant to subvert the notion of the “precious” art object. During the opening people were given stones to throw at the painting (right side of the image below) thus exposing the bed of yams and potatoes to the paint injected into each egg.

I Yam What I Yam by Ken Rinaldo at premiere ATA Gallery San Francisco, California 1988
I Yam What I Yam by Ken Rinaldo at premiere ATA Gallery San Francisco, California 1988

During the opening, I was completely overwhelmed with how exuberant people were. Individuals ran up and took bites out of the potatoes and yams, while others smeared tempera paint on the frame. Seeing, “passive viewers” transformed into active and emotionally invested participants, was eye-opening and set me down the path of questioning human/art / life interfaces and wanting more interaction.

I Yam What I Yam by Ken Rinaldo after growing for 1 month outside my studio at San Francisco State University, California 1988
I Yam What I Yam by Ken Rinaldo after growing for 1 month outside my studio at San Francisco State University, California 1988

The living painting I Yam what I Yam continued to transform as it was moved outside receiving rain and the sun.  leaves and buds bloomed while hungry slugs occupied and ate much of the work.

They loved it till it was eaten.

While it was an epiphany to create an interactive living-systems painting, critical reflection also suggested a form of interaction that was more rapid, evocative and evolutive and one that might involve the viewer much more.

EXHIBITIONS

SAN FRANCISCO STATE UNIVERSITY, San Francisco California
ATA Gallery San Francisco California

KEYWORDS

living systems artwork, bio art, interactive art, participatory art