semiotics of the kitchen, 2.0

Inspired by the feminist parody video and performance piece released in 1975 by Martha Rosler, semiotics of the kitchen, 2.0 addresses and highlights food related issues of 2018. This reinterpretation maintains a feminist viewpoint, but expands on that definition to include numerous intersectional issues that were often overlooked in the activism campaigns of second-wave feminists. These issues include, but certainly not limited to, school lunches, the farm bill, sexual harassment in the food industry, food waste, gustatory privilege, and decolonized foodways. Unlike Rosler's original piece, this interpretation includes images and gifs that cater to and critique a 21st century aesthetic. Semiotics 2.0 begins, however, much like Rosler's with a few basic kitchen staples. 

Martha Rosler is a New York City-based American artist working in photography, video, installation, sculpture, and performance. Her work centers on the public sphere, society, and women's experience. Rosler is also well known for her writing and her feminist activism. 

Parodying early television shows, Semiotics of the Kitchen (1974/75) was a pioneering piece of feminist video art. In the short video, Rosler styles herself as a cooking show host as she demonstrates some hand tools of the kitchen in alphabetical order. As the video progresses, Rosler's demonstrations become increasingly physical and, at times, violent.

Working through the alphabet, Rosler creates a kind of culinary lexicon starting with A for Apron, B for Bowl, until she begins to replace tangible material objects with physical manifestations and gestures with her body. She concludes with Z sliced into the air with the blade of a knife. Rosler intended the video to challenge social expectations of women in regard to food production as well as the "the familiar system of everyday kitchen meanings -- the securely understood signs of domestic industry and food production." 

View the original video below. 


Design and photography by Katherine Hysmith.

Modeling by Joshua Gantt (her very helpful and patient husband). 

Semiotics of the Kitchen, 2.0 was created by Katherine Hysmith as a final project for graduate course AMST 498 (2018).