With edible interventions and truly creative cuisine, Animal Vegetable Mineral brings together three of my favourite things: art, history and food. I first came into contact with AVM Curiosities last year when they participated in Eat Your Heart Out, Carla Connolly’s fetid feast at St Bart’s Pathology Museum which featured everything from bleeding heart cupcakes to vials of maple syrup urine – yum!
With its antique cabinets and delicate imagery, this exhibition is far removed from the gore of Eat Your Heart Out, yet its roots are equally grotesque. Ambergris has long been used as an aphrodisiac, in ancient medicines and ground into perfume due to the sweet scent it acquires with age, however freshly produced Ambergris is a far less appealing: a black substance found in the belly of the Sperm whale, formed from indigestible squid beaks.
AVM was founded by Tasha Marks who became fascinated by the history of food whilst studying Art History at university; for AMBERGRIS she presents AVM’s ongoing series of edible prints, as well as Ambergris-infused sugar pieces and a variety of related ephemera. In the centre of the room is a domed alchemist’s jar containing a piece of genuine ambergris for visitors to sniff; apparently some find the scent of it sickening, and it’s certainly strange – a sort of floral muskiness with a salty bite.
Herrick Gallery is small but perfectly formed, and an ideal space for AMBERGRIS. The works may be limited, but this is far from detrimental; collectively they provoke a discussion, and having just a few pieces on show gives room for consideration. AVM have been working within galleries for the past two years, however this fine art-based solo show is sure to bring in a new following.
Herrick Gallery is open weekends 2-6pm or by appointment; for a grand day out hit Shoreditch on a Sunday for a few vintage markets, tasty food stalls and, of course, a whiff of Ambergris.
Adored by Ancient Egyptians, modern Parisians, Casanova and Elizabeth I alike, the opportunity to explore this bizarre olfactory is not one to be missed.
All images © Paul Singer.
AMBERGRIS is on at Herrick Gallery until 4th July, open 2-6pm Sat & Sun or by appointment.