“Happy Meals” is a performance based on the experiences of the culture of consumption, and industrialization of food in the United States as perceived through an outsider perspective. It focuses on food as an important aspect of cultural experience in the U.S. The performance includes objects such as oversized soda cups, junk mail flyers of fast food restaurants, large shopping carts as elements signifying American archetypes of a gluttonous food culture that worships size over substance. Bharata Natyam dance has a narrative structure. The dancer uses body gestures and facial expressions to tell a story, traditionally drawn from Indian mythology. In Happy Meals, I extend this traditional aspect of story telling to my contemporary experiences. The performance takes inspiration from the language and terminologies from the food industry combined with the movement vocabulary and symbolic gestures of Bharata Natyam dance to express the dilemma, and contradictions in experiencing the food culture as an outsider in the United States. The sheer number of products in a single category, the oversized portions served in restaurants, the amount of food wasted everyday, and the overload of information printed on food packets can be overwhelming for a person not raised in this culture. Against this backdrop, the performance calls upon the importance of simple eating. Inspired from Indian rituals and ceremonies that revere human connection with nature and environment, it reminds us to respect the basic essential life-giving natural ingredient – water.
Marianna Kistler Beach Museum of Art, Manhattan, Kansas
Born and raised in Mumbai, India, I have been engaged in two genres of art for most of my life: dance and visual art. I complemented my undergraduate education in Fine Art and in classical Indian dance Bharata Natyam in Mumbai, India. I concurrently worked as a font designer in Indian languages, and performed and taught dance in India for more than a decade. I currently live in the United States of America, which has brought new geographic and cultural contexts, broadening my work as an artist. The status of being an immigrant offers experiences of displacement, contradictions, assimilation, and waiting, which I explore in my work. I take delight in unusual juxtapositions and bring elements of contradictions into my choreography, particularly presenting the differences between contemporary western archetypes and classical Indian symbology. My performances often integrate movements, text-speech, elements of design, and audiovisual media. I have a Master’s degree in Performance and Creative Research and have performed in India, United States, United Kingdom, and Canada. I enjoy creating movement-based communal experiences through teaching and performing. As an artist in residence in Paducah, Kentucky, I led members of the local community in a movement-based public art project. As a graphic designer, my work specializes in lettering and font design. I am always interested in collaborations.
Photo by: Shreepad Joglekar
This post is part of a series of profiles on performance and performance makers from this year’s book, Contemporary Performance Almanac 2016, an overview of contemporary performance presented during the 2014/2015 season available for touring now. If you would like to be apart of next year’s book, Contemporary Performance Almanac 2017, you can join the project here.