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Mouthfeel combines staged and found footage to explore the politics underpinning the industrial production of food. The staged scenes are based on an original script by Jafri and focus on the conversations of a middle class married couple who work for the same food multinational company. Their exchange is inspired by theatre and television, where socio-political analysis is played out through everyday, familial dialogue. Quotes from scientific, self-help, and public health manuals are seamlessly woven into the apparently naturalistic dialogue, tempering it with an aura of artifice.
Set in the near future, the plot ostensibly revolves around the wife, a leading food technologist, and the husband, a senior brand manager, who find themselves stuck in a chauffeur-driven stretch limo at a security checkpoint in an unspecified global city. The wife, played by Jafri, has uncovered a potential health problem with their new product, which her husband is determined to cover up. The husband calls for pragmatism in the face of the token protests voiced by the wife, countering her half-hearted appeal to the common interest with his own appeal to common sense. Ultimately both characters are complicit. Along with excerpts of found footage sourced from different countries in the Global South and which act as “commercial breaks”, Mouthfeel also address themes of convenience, good taste, and the disparities between mass and artisanal forms of production.
By bringing together television, the car, and processed food, ultimately then what is at stake is the culture and business of consumption, unchecked and aspirational, global and yet also specific in its local instantiations. A culture which first arises in the mid-20th century United States but certainly does not end there. Moreover, by having one of the lead characters played by the artist, Mouthfeel implicitly locates contemporary art (and thus artists) within this nexus…
Mouthfeel (2014), single screen, 2k HD video with sound, 21:34 min
image: video still