“But while there were arguably more pressing (and depressing) food issues (food waste, the declining bee population etc.) to consider, I was not drawn to them at first. Why was I avoiding the more topical issues? Was it simply because they were depressing? Was I angry about it?”Christopher Alan Slater
Description of the Work
Chris writes about his thoughts, process, and research that informed his performance piece; HOT TAKE, CUPCAKE.
Project: Inedible Cakes, Exhibition Booklet
Rage Baking the Hot Takes Away
Before I write about my thought processes leading to my work, I would like to take a moment here to recognize that it is Black History Month and to recognize Tangerine Jones, the original Ragebaker. My own experiment was less about healing than Jones’ practice, but I did use baking as a way to do something about my own negative emotions. As Jones herself puts it ragebaking is
“A way to center yourself and others in the midst of Supreme F**kery and turn anger or sorrow into something beautiful.”
I like to think I did something akin to that with HOT TAKE, CUPCAKE.
When I heard that “Inedible Cakes” was going to be our theme for the show, my mind was drawn immediately to two things: Marie Antoinette & Over the Edge (one of my favourite tabletop role-playing games, published by Atlas Games).
Marie Antoinette was not a surprising first thought. She’s a famous historical figure known for sticking not just her foot, but perhaps her whole fashionable leg in her mouth, by saying, “Qu’ils mangent de la brioche.” In English, “Let them eat cake.” No wonder the french proletariat only took two days to try, convict, and execute her. I acknowledge that there’s no evidence that she actually said those words, but I’m not sure it matters. Though she was a figure of great taste and a setter of aristocratic trends, the opinion of a great many people was that for the Revolution to end successfully, she had to lose her head. She was a symbol that had to die. The inedibility then, of the cake, in this historical context represents an incredible lack of awareness. One’s privilege left unconsidered, or worse flaunted, in the face of those without.
In the Over the Edge game, our characters frequented an ice cream parlour that had several fantastical flavours. It was there where my character and his compatriots discovered the wondrous (if deadly) Razorblade Surprise. Each tub of this stuff contained a deadly sharp razorblade. Only one lucky winner would get the “prize”. Again, not so much inedible per se, but wholly unrecommended for personal health and safety reasons. The inedibility of the dessert in this case becomes something more like the ultimate hipster foodie challenge for the suicidally bored. A dare to play the dessert version of Russian roulette.
But while there were arguably more pressing (and depressing) food issues (food waste, the declining bee population etc.) to consider, I was not drawn to them at first. Why was I avoiding the more topical issues? Was it simply because they were depressing? Was I angry about it?
It was then that I noticed my resistance to my own thought processes. I felt like I was drifting too far from the theme.
The great thing about having an agreed upon theme or topic is that it immediately gives you an anchor to keep you from drifting too far out from the safety of the shore. It gives you a ready-made dinner of food for thought (I know, that’s not that clever, but I won’t apologize). And when I thought that, my resistance crumbled and I had a bit of a breakthrough: What if I considered not food for thought, but thoughts as food.
Looking back at Marie Antoinette and the class disparity of the French Revolution; it wasn’t that the brioche was inedible (there was no brioche for the poor to eat), it was her shitty take on the situation. Her ideas and beliefs are an Inedible Cake. Turning my attention next to the surreal ice cream from the imaginary ice cream shop in Over the Edge, one might argue that an ice cream named Razorblade Surprise is logically rendered inedible by default. And yet, it was it’s inedibility that made it so tantalizing.
Thoughts as the inedible cake. But then what are inedible thoughts? Surely they’re different for everyone. But what can I do with them? Rather than attack Marie’s poor decisions, I felt like I needed something a bit more topical. I also wanted to make something tangible, ostensibly edible, but also inedible. I knew what I wanted to do. I wanted to take bad takes, the supposed “hot takes”, and dress them up as cupcakes. Give them an edible form, and then give them my own version of the razorblade.
Then I discovered Tangerine Jones and Ragebaking. She created Ragebaking as a way to deal with the ugliness in the world. Bake the hate away. It was the final piece I needed.
HOT TAKE, CUPCAKE is a response to the shitty, cynical, racist, misogynist, ignorant, INEDIBLE thoughts one can find… not just in the dark corners of the internet, but lamentably in plain view on mainstream news sites, videos, and even on the street corner. All the racism, misogyny, transphobia, etc. Thoughts I find not just unpalatable, but inedible. They shouldn’t qualify as food for thought. And yet there they were being discussed… not difficult to find, just hard for me to stomach.
After coming out of that dark hole, I had my Hot Takes. Each of them was used as a name for one of my flavours of cupcakes in my own fantastical cupcake store HOT TAKE, CUPCAKE. They’re enticing with their sugary, rich chocolate and vanilla forms, they have a cute little label that once you pick one up to eat you can read the bad take but once you take a bite you realize there’s something isn’t quite right, and you realize you’ve eaten one that has been given a dab of one of the hottest spicy hot sauces available.
My intent is to form a negative association between the shitty take and the participant’s mind. A sort of negative Pavolovian response where they experience the fiery burn of the hot sauce when they think of these things.
I think I’m going to ragebake more often.
– Christopher Alan Slater, February 2020