On Saturday 19 March, an exhibition devoted entirely to the sausage will open at rodolphe janssen gallery in Brussels. Indeed, the very idea of the sausage might invite a laugh, and it's sure to trigger countless associations surrounding and relating to the sausage. And yet, since the 17th century, we have seen many sausages in the visual arts: in various forms and with various meanings. Julie Senden, who has been working at rodolphe janssen gallery for eight years and has been its director since 2016, conducted extensive research into the interest in and the hilarity surrounding the sausage and she curated the exhibition 'Sausage Party'. Ample reason for conducting an interview.
Noun (m./v.), roll of meat compressed into a membrane;
casing filled with meat; year of origin: 1240 (Bern);
pronunciation: [wɔrst] inflections: sausage|and (plural)
examples: 'smoked sausage', 'bratwurst'
Sean Landers, Herr Knockwurst, 2022, rodolphe janssen.
MK Where does the title 'Sausage Party' come from?
JS In the English language, 'Sausage Party' refers to a party for male guests only. But taking the description 'Sausage Party' literally, we decided to build a party around the sausage, complete with champagne and beer. A total of 25 artists, 13 of them women and 12 male, will participate to celebrate the sausage in art. The great diversity between the artists and their work shows how many different meanings and forms the sausage has taken in art. From a traditionally beautiful piece of meat in a 16th and 17th century still life, to a slippery, industrially produced sausage as a symbol for our consumer society. Without attaching any moral significance to it, I thought it would be nice to bring together all these different forms and meanings of sausages in one exhibition.
Lucas Blalock, Blanton, 2014, rodolphe janssen.
MK Where did the idea come from to dedicate an entire exhibition to the sausage?
JS The idea originated from a series of 'Hot-dog' photographs by American artist Lucas Blalock (b. 1978), that were first shown at White Flag Projects in St Louis, Missouri, in 2014. His photographed sausages with titles such as 'Night drugs' and 'Basis for Language' look like small frankfurters, that we no longer associate with street food but rather see as abstract, cylindrical objects, arranged in stacks, circles and squares. Through the clinical manner of presentation and by stripping the sausages of their original context, their meaning is pushed into the background, while their formal aspects come to the fore.
MK Can you give an example of artists who have used or are using the sausage as a subject?
JS You see that historical artists like Magritte (1889-1967) and Wols (1913-1951), but also the recently deceased artist Wayne Thiebaud (1920-20212) and living artists like Fischli & Weiss, Wim Delvoye and Damien Hirst, often use sausages as a theme. Claes Oldenburg, for example, sold his 'Red Sausages' in 'The Store' in early 1961, because he believed that art, like a sausage, belonged in a shop and not, like a precious possession, in a museum. In his painting 'Der Wurstesser' (1963), Sigmar Polke (1941-2010) shifted the boundary between art with a capital A and commercial kitsch, and between modernist seriousness and the automated production process. Piquant and scatological references were also often hidden in earlier art and literature, but it is only in contemporary art that we see how these allusions have taken on explicit forms.
Beni Bischof, sausage power, 2011, rodolphe janssen.
MK Why does everyone laugh at the word 'sausage'?
JS I think it is primarily because of the sense of banality that the sausage evokes, but also because of its many sexual and anal connotations. It is inevitable that the sausage lends itself to numerous interpretations: everyone - from upper to lower classes - knows and eats them. They are affordable and have numerous ways of preparation, that differ from country to country. But there is also something silly about it. The animal has become unrecognisable because of its transformation into an industrial, anonymous product. In addition, because of its appearance, the sausage easily falls into the category of 'poo' and 'piss', and yes, that does make us laugh.
MK What do you want to show with this exhibition?
JS I want to show that the sausage in art not only puts a smile on your face but that it also transcends the satire or the irony - think of the cloaca and the phallus. In the 1974 performance 'Hot-dog', for example, Paul McCarthy filled his throat with raw sausages while wrapping his head in gauze to keep the food in. Thus, traditional references to sexuality and banality gave way to a critical attitude towards industrial food production and our consumption behaviour. We also see how, from the second half of the 1970s onwards, the sausage is used to visualise the ridiculous or the absurd. Peter Fischli and David Weiss's 1979 ‘Wurst-Series’, for example, a series of photographs depicting episodes from a story in which sausages and everyday objects play the leading role, should be seen in the light of the Swiss punk scene of the time.
Wim Delvoye, Marble Floor# 48, 1999, rodolphe janssen.
MK You are also showing work by the well-known Flemish artist Wim Delvoye, known for his Cloaca and marble floors with sausage motifs. Can you tell us something about that?
JS In 1999, Delvoye made ornamental motifs of fine meat products - slices of ham, salami and mortadella - which he then had photographed and printed in large format. The organic, time-bound process of decay to which meat is subject thus disappeared, and made way for the timelessness and grandeur of the marble floors that you find in great cathedrals. The bringing together of elements from 'high' and 'low' culture is typical of Delvoye's oeuvre.
Christa Dichgans, Salsicce, 1971, 20 cm x 25 cm.
MK I understand that you are showing not only artists from the gallery but also other artists whose work has an interesting relationship to the sausage as a theme?
JS Yes, that's right. The exhibition is a mishmash of known and unknown artists, who use their work to show us that the sausage can have different meanings and connotations. It is not my intention to offer a moral lesson about the sausage. I want everyone to smile when seeing the works, without them being banal. There is also a seriousness to the theme. And there are incredibly beautiful photos, sculptures and paintings of sausages that are purely aesthetic. Come and have a look!