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Old Food

3.27  ·  Rating details ·  30 ratings  ·  9 reviews
From one of the most lauded artists of his generation comes a purging soliloquy: a profound nowt delivered in some spent afterwards. Scorched by senility and nostalgia, and wracked by all kinds of hunger, Ed Atkins’ Old Food lurches from allegory to listicle, from lyric to menu, fetching up a plummeting, idiomatic and crabbed tableau from the cannibalised remains of each ...more
Paperback, 120 pages
Published November 28th 2019 by Fitzcarraldo Editions (first published November 2019)
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Average rating 3.27  · 
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Nov 21, 2019 rated it really liked it
Reading "Old Food" is a very confusing and disorienting experience. It is very short but it took me far longer to read than I imagined it would because the only way I could get a kind of sense out of it was to read it out loud. Once I started to do that, images and impressions started to form in my mind’s eye: nothing concrete, nothing definite, but a sense of something (although I am still not completely sure what!).

I think for anyone planning to read this book, it is very good advice to spend
Dec 15, 2019 rated it really liked it
[3.5] Ed Atkins’ latest collection of words, flouting categories just as A Primer for Cadavers did, deals with things dietary and digestive. Written in blurts while the Old Food exhibition was running in various European locales, it consists of a highly associative text that eludes meaning in the normal sense. It is relentlessly assonant and alliterative as though the sounds of the words lead Atkins forward: the narrator reminisces the more or less edible food he has eaten (especially when ...more
Paul Fulcher
Ed Atkins is a contemporary artist who works with video and text.

His Old Food exhibition in 2017-8 consisted, in his words, of "eight and then nine videos; anywhere between eight hundred and a few thousand costumes sourced from opera houses and theatres; and a series of enigmatic wall texts written by Contemporary Art Writing Daily and laser-etched onto locally-sourced garbage wood". Reviews and overviews of the exhibition include:
Emily M
Dec 18, 2019 rated it it was ok
A book apparently intended to accompany, or at least complement, an exhibition of the same name. I spent an afternoon reading a few articles about the exhibition, which sounded fairly interesting but which (shocking I know in modern art) did not seem to have anything to do with food. This wouldn’t be noteworthy except that the book is – almost exclusively – about food.

The nearly-impenetrable blurb on the back cover hints that it may also be “a hard Brexit, wadded with historicity, melancholy and
Dec 11, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Old Food reads as the culinary history of a civilisation. It’s of course absurdist and cumulative, but an easier work to deal with than A Primer for Cadavers for sure.

The protagonist rambles on and on about what they did “that summer” or at “11pm, the night before winter solstice” or “In June 2009”, with equal parts remembering and forgetting. Many tropes of narrative are employed (like the recurring character Hannah, which makes little sense but is an easy landmark to hold tight to while
Dec 09, 2019 rated it really liked it
This won’t be to the taste of most people (please pardon that phrasing, if you’ve read the book) but I loved it; a meandering, characterless immediate expression of the visceral nature of food, of flesh as meat, of self-consumption and satisfaction. The blurb is ludicrously pretentious and perhaps so is the book itself but it gets away with it, being something of a cross between Gertrude Stein’s Tender Buttons and a very truncated version of Finnegan’s Wake. If you are here for the weird, you ...more
Adrian Alvarez
Nov 26, 2019 rated it liked it
A quote from Georges Bataille on the first page sets a tone and expectation for this work that frames Atkins' perspective and establishes his attitude. I'm willing to take an artistic vision on its own terms but here what I thought was a run up to Bataille's charge at establishment values was maybe just excusing the absence of narrative as "the accursed share." Perhaps this is what Atkins was alluding to in his interview at Berliner Festspiel when he said, describing Old Food, "...and I suppose, ...more
Jonathan Perks
Dec 08, 2019 rated it really liked it
A poem? A prose poem? Arranged text? Certainly, this book’s focus is food and its consequences: bodily functions, relationships, food - in lists, a recipe, an exhibition piece linked to Ed Atkins’ art. I devoured it in one gulp but I feel I will reorder this menu item - seconds - and read it again.
Andrea Barlien
Nov 26, 2019 rated it really liked it
This is not an easy read but it is an interesting one. It switches between prose and verse and the beautiful and the grotesque. It’s an anomaly. I can’t say I ‘enjoyed’ it but I sure as heck appreciated it.
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Ed Atkins (born 1982) is a British contemporary artist best known for his video art and poetry. He is currently based in Berlin.

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