Installation for the exhibition FOOD: Bigger than the Plate at the Victoria and Albert Museum, 2019
“This Little Piggy” follows a piglet from birth to ham — like a baby album that turns into a cookbook. It is the story of France’s Jambon de Bayonne and a pig, Zelai (“meadow” in basque). The result is intimate visual and culinary ouevre about a group of pigs born in a commercial nursery, their experiences (their ümvelt) as they moved from life indoors to outdoor range, and eventually to their death at the local abattoir. The backdrop is the inevitable fact of their existence, that they are food; the result of choices made by humans (producers and consumers) for the pigs’ comfort and for culinary, economic and environmental balance. This Little Piggy is a meditation on the value of life and momentary pleasure, our place in nature, and our own mortality.
Zelai birth weight: 1.5kg; dressed weight: 158kg. I saw his first breath. He loved to wallow and cuddle. He snored. His hams will age 2 years (twice his actual lifespan). The rest of his flesh is preserved in cans.
The installation consists of a collage of eight IGN maps of the region, 5 videos, and 183 cans each wrapped with 183 unique photos taken during Zelia’s life or transformation. Zelia was born and raised to become Jambon de Bayonne. His two hams are aging 10 minutes from where he was born. These 183 cans of boudin, pate, and sausages and meat contain the rest of him. A portrait of a pig within his environment, culture and history — a salt spring, birthplace and environs, an abattoir, two charcuteries, a port city, and the road to Compostello. This Little Piggy is a rumination on the nature of food, conscientiousness, mortality, connoisseurship and pleasure — and interspecies familiarity.