Selection – The Lion’s Share

The Lion's ShareThe Lion’s Share, Josephine Mills, Elizabeth Diggon and Rita McKeough, Lethbridge, University of Lethbridge Art Gallery, 2012. 57 pages, ill. Text in English.

With its bright yellow text and brown paper wrapping reminiscent of a package of butcher’s meat, THE LION’S SHARE is an exhibition catalogue documenting the performance piece presented at the Main Gallery of the University of Lethbridge Art Gallery between November 3, 2011 and January 5, 2012 by Calgary-based artist Rita McKeough. McKeough’s work was the final performance piece and installation of a larger series of works, organized by the University of Lethbridge Art Gallery for their “Food Series”. This series included exhibitions, discussions, and performances that addressed food consumption as well as the social and political aspects of food production and cultivation [URL].

The exhibition catalogue includes essays written by Josephine Mills (curator), Elizabeth Diggon (author) and Rita McKeough (artist). Images from the exhibition, which involved McKeough transforming the gallery space into a diner, are presented within the catalogue. The opening page of the publication includes a short piece of poetry that resembles the layout of a menu with such items listed as: “LICK THE PLATES CLEAN”, “TAKE A FEW MORE BITES”, and “WIPE YOUR MOUTH DRY” written in comic sans font. This font occurs sporadically within the catalogue as the titles to essays and is mirrored within the gallery’s faux diner as thought bubbles to the carrots mounted on dinner plates that encircle the gallery walls.

McKeough’s performance and installation provides a platform for discussion on food consumption and preparation, farming, and food production—both of processed and whole foods.  The catalogue captures the humour, as well as obvious discomfort, of this event. In her essay entitled “SUBVERSIVE SUSTENANCE AND THE SOCIAL SPACE OF FOOD”, Elizabeth Diggon makes a poignant comparison between the relationship of food to consumer and depicts the gallery space and installation as blurring “…the line between the hunter and the hunted” [p. 40].

At the end of the catalogue, McKeough’s writing is a tongue-in-cheek, in-character retelling of her efforts to round-up hotdogs for a dinner rush.  She describes her frustrating attempts to keep them together as they make their way to the “buffet feedlot” which is still full of “hotdog droppings from the day before”[p. 57]. This piece of writing by McKeough leaves the reader laughing at the absurdity of the described scene while slightly horrified by the thought of an overcrowded hotdog holding pen. Again, the catalogue contains scene by scene photographs of this performance piece highlighted by bright yellow pages of text—a yellow that only adds to the discomfort of the subject matter.

Rita McKeough is an internationally acclaimed performance, media installation, and sound artist based in Calgary, Alberta Canada [URL]. Artexte has over 50 documents that are connected to McKeough’s writing, solo and group work [URL]. The Lion’s Share travelled to the Doris McCarthy Gallery at the University of Toronto, Scarborough from September 4 to October 27, 2012 and will travel to the Dalhousie Art Gallery, Halifax from August 30 to October 6, 2013, and then on to the Kenderdine Art Gallery | College Art Galleries, University of Saskatchewan from January 17 to April 26, 2014. Come visit us to consult THE LION’S SHARE as well as other documents by and about Rita McKeough. — Lindsey Skeen (intern), MLIS, McGill University (2013)

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