Sunset Strip Carrot Dangle navigates a number of socio-political concerns (3 stars)

Sunset Strip Carrot Dangle

Leith Late exhibition at Punjabi Junction proves difficult to stomach

There is something uncomfortable about the mixture of celebration and anxiety that Sunset Strip Carrot Dangle provokes. Part event, part exhibition, part temporary food bank, there are many socio-political concerns to navigate, all while enjoying a freshly cooked samosa made by Punjabi Junction: a social enterprise that supports Minority Ethnic women through training and employment.

In this multipurpose space, many social expectations rub up against each other. First appearances would suggest that this is an exhibition of artist's prints in a café, but as the swell of visitors continues to arrive, those eating at tables find their elbows increasingly pinched while handbags dangle in their curry. They are possibly even more bemused when David Sherry begins to chant 'turn a blind eye, here's another blind eye' while batting painted ping pong balls at them.

While this is going on, a teetering column of spam cans sits unobserved by the serving counter. Read as art objects, canned meat is the most ubiquitous of readymades; a wry little joke of the art market where cans of spam are bought for pennies by artists and sold for thousands to collectors. Primarily recognised as a poverty food, spam has long been associated with army rationing, not to mention its more recent affiliation with cyber warfare. In the context of a food bank, its reading is no less complicated. Processed sugar and processed meat are both materials upon which empires are founded; an irony that is all too apparent when trying to decide whether to donate economy baked beans or organic fair-trade beans.

On the walls, Stephanie Mann's brightly coloured prints show impossibly balanced assemblages of foodstuffs and found objects. Their fantasy of perfect harmony is a brief reprieve from the ethical questions about the risk of fetishising poverty by turning it into art.

Sunset Strip Carrot Dangle was part of Leith Late 2017

Punjabi Junction

122–124 Leith Walk, Edinburgh, EH6 5DT

Social enterprise community cafe serving authentic homemade Indian food in the heart of Leith.

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