Legacy Russell

[Cakes, cards]

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Petits Fours / La Petite Mort : Edible Effigies For The Modern Mourner, 2011

200 Petits Four Cakes, Assorted dishes, Cards with names of 9/11 deceased, Candle, Red wine, 8h 0m, Dimensions Variable


A petit four (French; literal translation “small oven”) is a miniature confection generally eaten at the end of a meal or served as part of dessert. They are part of a lineage of haute cuisine, co-opted in the United States by the American bourgeoise as a culinary delicacy. Petits fours were traditionally made during the cooling process of coal-powered, brick ovens in the 18th century. This was due to coal’s high burning temperature, relative to wood, and its expense at the time. Wasting the heat produced was not an option. Thus, the action of production became as much about the state of economy and industry as it was about the food itself and the role it played in the larger scheme of the meal at hand.

“Small oven” conjures images of the mouth, of digestive canals, of that which is baked or is burned — either in resistance, remembrance, celebration, or in effigy. In “Petits Fours / La Petite Mort”, the artist LEGACY will produce several hundred of these small treats; each one will be personalized with a name of an individual life lost on September 11th, 2001. Each will act as an edible tombstone, calling into play the relational histories of food, death, and mourning, but also of food and sex (La Petite Mort, French for “the little death”, is a metaphor for orgasm). Theorists, artists, writers, and scientific thinkers across centuries have mused about the connection between the orgasm as both a literal and figurative release of the spirit. The act of eating appears in a multitude of theistic practices, both traditional and alternative alike. Within Catholic practice, according to the New Testament, Jesus gave at his Last Supper his disciples bread, saying, “This is my body”, and wine, saying, “This is my blood”; this has become part of the ritual of “taking the Eucharist”, otherwise known as Holy Communion.

Each cake comes with a card that notes the name of one person who passed away on 9/11. It is the responsibility of the participant to take away this name and introduce themselves to the history of that individual by researching them online, via the myriad of memorial databases and obituary sites that have been built up within the last ten years.

Engaging in a public rite of mourning and remembrance, the artist will offer passersby the opportunity to eat, reflect upon, and pay homage to those who perished.

Will be served with a small cup of red wine.

A commission for the Brooklyn Arts Council.

Artworks by Legacy Russell

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