A living systems painting, I Yam What I Yam 1988 was constructed of potatoes, yams, dirt, and eggs filled with tempera paint. 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.
During the opening, I was completely overwhelmed by 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.
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 until 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.
SAN FRANCISCO STATE UNIVERSITY, San Francisco California
ATA Gallery San Francisco California
living systems artwork, bio-art, interactive art, participatory art