Burger Tray

Painted bronze


A bronze cast of a dishevelled polystyrene burger tray, painted to look real.


  • Trompe L'oeil - Rikke Hansen SHOW

    Trompe L'oeil - Rikke Hansen

    Like the carefully staged crime scene, trompe l’œil tricks the viewer through the arrangement of misleading appearances and false clues. Literally meaning ‘cheat the eye’, the art technique involves the realistic depiction of phenomena to create optical illusions, often turning flat surfaces into seemingly three-dimensional objects. Trompe l’œil art does not belong to a particular ism or medium but slips in and out of focus through the ages, depending on dominant regimes of representation.

    Although the term was not coined until the early 1800s, the genre can be traced back to Greek and Roman times. The Roman writer Pliny the Elder writes of a rivalry in ancient Greece between the painters Zeuxis and Parrhasius, both accomplished in this particular art. Largely forgotten during the Middle Ages, the technique was given a new lease of life by the Italian Renaissance and the era’s advanced understanding of perspective, while painters of the Baroque era applied it to the then increasingly popular genre of still life. Artists of the Modern period, however, made limited use of trompe l’œil, as works no longer strived towards illusion or imitation but were made to investigate the grounds for art’s own existence. Nonetheless, a few

    painters, such as René Magritte and Jasper Johns, did appropriate the style and transform it into their own. The simulacral qualities of the technique, on the other hand, offered a desirable method for postmodern artists eager to challenge notions of authenticity, originality, and authorship.

    Trompe l’œil is all theatre, which is another reason the genre did not catch on in the Modern period. In the late 1960s, the art critic Michael Fried objected to a turn towards ‘theatricality’ in sculpture and painting, a concept that, according to the author, betrayed the autonomy of the advanced, Modern artwork by turning the exhibition space into a stage of sorts. While Fried’s attack was primarily directed against Minimal art, art forms that use trompe l’œil may equally be added to his list of ‘criminals’, as they also trouble the borders between work, ornamentation, setting, and audience, and, like performance, depend on the actual, physical presence of a viewer to be complete. In other words, the ‘power’ of trompe l’œil is not inherent to the work but exists somewhere between image and spectator and between image and place.
    At first glance, trompe l’œil art appears to have no author or origin;

    it aims to erase the traces of its own production. In the attempt to conceal the identity of the ‘perpetrator’, the signature of the artist may be hidden on an object within the image or, in the eighteenth century tradition, on a cartellino, a calling card or a note seemingly attached to the main work. Much like Edgar Allan Poe’s short story ‘The Purloined Letter’, the desired object is in full view but if we fail to recognise it as the thing it is, it inevitably falls outside our scopic register.

    Trompe l’œil momentarily blends with its own surroundings and transforms the entire environment into a set of representations, causing us to question the validity of other appearances and confuse these with the main work. This is, for example, the case in chantourné, a particularly unsettling form of trompe l’œil where a painting is cut into the shape of the thing it portrays and displayed alongside actual objects. While this specific deviation was fashionable in the seventeenth century, more recent examples exist. Duane Hanson’s late twentieth century life-size human sculptures are, though not paintings, created in the same vein. These figures are so true to life that they

    have been known to trick gallery visitors who have believed them to be real and, on occasions, even attempted to talk to them. However, like the detective story, trompe l’œil hovers between suspense and surprise, and, eventually, incorporates its own slippage. This is what constitutes the paradox of the style: to be successful, it must involve its own failure and sooner or later give the plot away, which is why Hanson’s sculptures are crucially not human.

    Still, some people are experts at turning themselves into trompe l’œil. This can make them seem untrustworthy, but such masquerading may also involve a critical element. La perruque is the French philosopher Michel de Certeau’s name for a specific performative practice through which the worker camouflages his or her own activities as work for the employer. La perruque can be as simple as a secretary writing a love letter at her office desk, a method through which, without being absent from her job or stealing anything of material value, she diverts company time. Such trickery is associated with the power of those who appear to have no power; it is a critique from below.

    There is more than

    a phonetic resemblance between the word perruque, ‘wig’, and perroquet, the French term for ‘parrot’. While trompe l’œil appears to be all artifice, it strangely borrows a mode of appearance that we have come to associate with animality: mimicry, parroting, or aping. Closely related to trompe l’œil is trompe l’oreille, a ‘trick of the ear’. Here, a living being mimics the voice of another as decoy. Birds are masters at this art, and only the most experienced birder might be able to tell the difference between the call of the Pied Wagtail and that of a Blyth’s Reed Warbler impersonating a Pied Wagtail. Just as trompe l’œil erases the trace of its own author, so does trompe l’oreille, although in a different way. The successful avian impersonator throws its voice as if its call was heard from a distance, confusing predators both with regard to its kind and its whereabouts.

  • Chip Trays And Chip Forks - Dixe Wills SHOW

    Chip Trays And Chip Forks - Dixe Wills

    There is perhaps no meal so quintessentially British as fish and chips. Leaving aside the competing claims of the traditional Sunday roast – and the fact that the method of preparing chipped fried potatoes is generally acknowledged to have been imported from France or Belgium – the fish and chip supper has become as much a symbol of Britishness as the Routemaster bus or the (now all but mythical) bowler-hatted city gent.

    That is not to say that the dish has been with us since the dawn of Albion. Indeed, it is only known to have been eaten in Britain since the latter half of the nineteenth century – Charles Dickens makes passing references in Oliver Twist and A Tale of Two Cities – when it became a hit with poorer sectors of society. The nation’s fishing fleet had taken to using trawling rather than line methods, resulting in a far greater catch and a consequent lowering in the cost of fish. When combined (around 1870), with the plentiful and inexpensive potato, a meal was created that became the treat of choice for the working classes. By the 1930s – when fish and chips were at the peak of

    their popularity in Britain – the middle classes were also to be found in the queues outside chippies.

    It is not until comparatively recently – and then rather by accident – that the now familiar polystyrene chip tray and the wooden chip fork made their mark on this dish-cum-institution.

    The chip tray owes its very existence in large part to the unstable properties of printers ink coupled with a certain squeamishness with regard to standards of food hygiene. From its inception, fish and chips had been wrapped in the cheapest form of packaging available: yesterday’s newspapers. However, in the 1970s and 80s, the owners of newspapers began to experiment with new types of ink. Although these were cheaper, it was discovered that they were also more susceptible to transferring themselves onto the fingers of readers. When the ink came into contact with hot batter and a liberal dose of vinegar, it leapt off the page faster than headlines themselves.

    However, contrary to popular belief, there has never been an Act of Parliament banning the use of newspaper as a wrapping for fish and chips. It was environmental health inspectors who took a dim view

    of this unwelcome new condiment and began to apply pressure on fish and chip shops to discontinue their use of newspapers.

    There are several reasons why many chip shop owners sought found a solution in the polystyrene chip tray. They cost less than a couple of pence each, they are feather light and stackable, and they help assistants gauge the correct size of a portion of chips.

    However, to say that the chip tray has been taken to the hearts of the public would be to overstate the esteem in which it is held by some margin. Above all else, it suffers from being a very dull object visually. Trays per se are functional articles, a flat surface, usually an oblong, with a raised edge all round. Their simplicity has left them largely impervious to radical changes of design and the chip tray has not bucked the trend. Its all over brilliant whiteness does not help its cause either. Perhaps if all chip trays were post box red or covered in yellow and black stripes or had some other markings that characterised them as chip trays and nothing else, they might establish some sort of tradition and

    we thus might muster some affection for them. As it is, the overwhelming majority of them are merely the default colour shared by every other object made of expanded polystyrene.

    This genericism is mirrored by the chip tray’s function. Despite its name, it can be found in numerous other outlets conveying a range of completely different fast foods to consumers. This compounds the lack of sense of the chip tray being special in any way. Not only is it a banal lifeless thing in the fish and chips world, it repeats its bland uniform monotony wherever else it appears. Understandably, this lends it a feel of the corporate, which does not sit well with the independent spirit of fish and chip shops, the vast majority of which are individually owned, Harry Ramsden’s chain notwithstanding.

    Even the fact that the use of such trays spares the hands of consumers from the burns and vinegar seepage that traditional newspaper wrapping was wont to subject them to is outweighed by the argument that the added protection they afford sanitises and thus diminishes the whole fish and chips experience.

    If this were not enough, chip trays are fast on their way

    to joining supermarket plastic bags as the anti-eco-warriors of our times (and, unlike the bags, customers have no option of refusing them). Until recently, they were a source of chlorofluorocarbons (CFC). A very small proportion of them are recyclable. The vast majority are not biodegradable either (biodegradable trays are more expensive and so tend only to be used by chips shops attempting to promote themselves as eco-friendly). Unlike plastic drinks bottles, which biodegrade in five to ten years, or fellow litter icon chewing gum (25 years), polystyrene chip trays will be still be polystyrene chip trays on the day the universe finally collapses in on itself.

    Since the chip tray’s useful life extends only for the length of time it takes for a person to eat the food it contains, and that typically that period ends when the consumer is outside, it is no surprise that it has become the archetype of British litter. If a television drama requires a shorthand means of expressing urban grit or rural squalor all that needs be done is to scatter a few used chip trays around the place.

    For the sake of authenticity, a number of miniature wooden forks would have

    to be sedulously strewn around too. In common with the chip tray, the chip fork is a relative newcomer and has found itself just as likely to turn into litter the instant its raison d’être has been exhausted. One could almost argue that, since they are typically bought from wholesalers in job lots of 20,000 at a cost of less than a halfpenny each, chip forks are produced for the express purpose of being thrown away and that the ten-minute period in which they are employed to shovel chips into a mouth is an aberration. As would be pieces of art these are not so much objets trouvés as objets jetés.

    At least it can be said that there is some aesthetic pleasure to be gained from them. The organic feel of the wood between the fingers complements the texture of the paper wrap held in the other hand. The chip fork’s sinuous curves, rounded handle and aggressively slanted tines give it the appearance of a Weeble crossed with an angry tadpole. Flipped sideways, however, and it all but disappears, prefiguring its own ineluctable disappearance into the cracks, crevices and fissures of the street, the Bic pen of

    the pavement. Perhaps, in the end, its most important function is as a delineator of humans beings: after all, what sort of people buy a portion of chips and then imagine themselves too precious to eat them with their fingers?