Friday, January 25, 2013


As Mark Twain might very easily have said, “Those who love art and sausages should watch neither being made.”

Now, for one reason or another, these days I tend to see both being made, and just so you know, I’m continuing with my career as a thoroughly amateurish smoker  and sausage maker.  Here are some merguez I made earlier, which of course don’t need smoking.

And the fact is, now that I’ve learned a bit more, I realize that the smoked sausage is a potentially risky proposition.  The big problem is botulism, a form of food poisoning, actually pretty rare, but nevertheless sometimes lethal, so not a thing to be messed with.  I discover that it was originally called sausage disease, but then the name was classed up to botulism, because botulus is the Latin word for sausage.  Wiktionary says the word is “Probably a borrowing from Osco-Umbrian,” which somehow makes me feel better.

Apparently the way to prevent botulism is to use a “cure” containing sodium nitrite, some of which I’ve now ordered.  I went for Prague Powder No. 1 – how can you beat a name like that?

Of course spoiled food is no laughing matter, although one man who seems to have found it fairly risible, if also a medium for profound meditations on the nature of decay and transience, was the German artist Dieter Roth (1930 -1998), who currently has a big exhibition in New York at Hauser and Wirth.

Back in 1970 Roth had a show at the Eugenia Butler gallery in L.A., for which he filled some cases with cheese and left them in the gallery to see what happened.  

Well, nature being as it is,  the results probably weren’t really all that surprising; except perhaps for the arrival of health inspectors.  There are images around of the end result but I can hardly bear to look at them, much less post them.

Roth also made sausage art - he called it Literaturwurst - for which he took books or magazines he disapproved of, put them through a grinder, and turned them into sausages, using actual sausage recipes, replacing the meat with the pulped up book, and adding water instead of fat.  One book was enough for a limited edition.

The culmination of the series came in 1974 using the 20 volume complete works of Hegel, one sausage per volume, which looked like this:

These works are sometimes, hilariously it seems to me, referred to by po-faced art galleries as “artist’s books.”  Yeah right.

I think this is great stuff, but let’s face it these aren’t really sausages, they’re pieces of paper mache, and I don’t suppose anyone is ever likely to eat one of them, given the auction prices of Roth's work, though it would be pretty cool if some contemporary art provocateur did: Jake and Dinos Chapman perhaps.  At least there’d be no risk of sausage disease.  Might need a beer with it though.

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