The Bakery of Blok (2009)

zin taylor the bakery of blok
The Bakery of Blok (installation detail)

The Bakery of Blok assembles a related group of works in different media to suggest the culturally rich metaphor of bread making - a process involving basic elements, activating agents, chemistry and time. In a narrative of transformation generated from a metaphorical group of eight abandoned blocks of wood from a closed bakery, the installation explores the development of sculptural form as a densely layered process that resembles organic growth. The blocks of wood become tools for populating their environment with other forms while form itself is depicted as a self-reproducing character in a plot where pieces of dough re-animate into living beings. The Bakery of Blok was conceived like an audience testing pilot mechanism, such as those used for proposed television series. Accordingly, the various related elements of the exhibition - sculpture, video, and photographs - are construed to resemble a partial set, some short clips and a series of promotional posters. While inhabiting contemporary cultural idioms, The Bakery of Blok mimics the larger process of history and this subject’s negotiation of memory and forgetfulness.

zin taylor weights of the blok the bakery of blok
Weights of the Blok

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Tools of the Blok

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Containers of the Blok

The Bakery of Blok features three groupings of sculptures. These are Weights of The Blok (5 objects), Measures of The Blok (5 objects) and Tools of The Blok (7 objects). Each grouping has been hand carved from commercial grade spruce typically used for home construction. The block-plinths that each grouping sits upon are constructed from unfinished plywood and purposed with a light white wash of latex paint. Identical dimensions indicate the plinths as a series of units wherein the objects related to The Bakery of Blok are arranged according to their use within the overall narrative.

Each of the seventeen items is the result of a linguistic translation of text into form. In researching bread production I came upon instructions and lists for a necessary series of implements needed to make bread. Illustrations showing the appropriate items were routinely absent. As a programmatic working rule I did not seek out visual references for each tool. Instead I set about producing sculptural translations of each item as I interpreted it. The knife, spoon, scraper, tray, weights, scale, and containers represent what I have versioned as a depiction of the written item. Each item records my use of a constructed language, a sartorial fashioning of material into form.

Within the narrative of the video Eight Pilot Episodes for The Bakery of Blok each of the seventeen items is depicted as the result of the eight wooden blocks constructing the implements needed to produce bread. These seventeen items were used during the shooting to produce the bread forms present within the video. Displayed according to their categorical use, the wooden sculptures record the making of bread upon their surface with traces of flour and dough referencing past employment. Separated for the gesture of exhibition, the objects reveal a series of sculptural translations that propose the generation of form as the result of a fashioned discussion.

For instance, the weight for water is a combination of the container’s mass plus the volume weight for that ingredient. Assorted wood bits were collected totaling this combined weight then arranged into a form, finally painted blue indicating its role within the proposed narrative. As an object this Weight exists according to a constructed logic that has assigned an arrangement of wood with an inaccurate measurement and elemental identity. The definitions of one language have been replaced with that of another, the beginnings of a systematic vernacular address of all that pre-exists.

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Arrangement for Bread and Wood (One Eye and Second Loaf), C-print

arrangement for bread and wood zin taylor the bakery of blok
Arrangement for Bread and Wood (The Bakers of Blok), C-print

arrangement for bread and wood zin taylor the bakery of blok
Arrangement for Bread and Wood (Red Stripe and Second Loaf), C-print

arrangement for bread and wood zin taylor the bakery of blok
Arrangement for Bread and Wood (Bread and Salt), C-print

arrangement for bread and wood zin taylor the bakery of blok
Arrangement for Bread and Wood (France), C-print

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Arrangement for Bread and Wood (Upstairs, Downstairs) , C-print

arrangement for bread and wood zin taylor the bakery of blok
Arrangement for Bread and Wood (Bread Hat), C-print

The seven colour photographs collectively titled An Arrangement for Bread and Wood depict a photo-shoot utilizing the cast and set from Eight Pilot Episodes for The Bakery of Blok. Although elements from the video are present, the images are not scenes from the pilot narrative. Each image presents a sampling of found and constructed forms, the bread and the wood, provisionally situated within a visual setting that oscillates between promotional advertising and performance document. One’s recording while the other’s proposing. Buddy-ed up and presented as a pair, the wood and the bread casually explore their table-top lifestyle in a series of dramatized instances highlighting their unique ability to underscore a material similarity with an equally dissimilar appearance. On one hand the images record a series of authorial intentions to augment and develop the language of sculpture. On the other an index of promotion, teaser previews, are presented to potentially hook an audience into mental participation with an unrevealed narrative arc.

As documentary images each photograph constructs a propositional relationship between the dimensionally similar elements of bread and wood. The foreground and background of each image collaborate to construct a specific facet for a general narrative. In recording a clearly staged arrangement the two formal elements and their related sub-sets (flour and dough for the bread, containers and wedges for the wood) introduce a dialogue where the language of one form is used to address that of another. While the wooden block is the long result of a series of growths, processes and formations, so does the crust of bread emerge from a similarly long trip. As needed, an increasingly abstract narrative evolves the variables of consumption, abundance, and growth to the infinite regeneration of these two organically related, but ultimately processed, forms.

Promotional campaigns introduce a product, series, or service while educating an audience on the specific merits of the subject at hand. A good “pitch” is needed in order to generate interest in the product. After this has been achieved and the audience is hooked, there occurs a delivery of more advanced and intricate information exploring the initial idea. Television commercials, magazine advertisements, poster campaigns, testimonials, articles, and merchandising: elements of information-administration with the potential to affect an audiences’ generosity to the unfamiliar. The seven photos propose a bakery (albeit a haunted one) as a metaphorical location for the generative organic-like growth of sculptural forms. Wherein a temporarily concealed process (A scenario of experimentation that is responsible for the development of a never-ending expansion of form) has resulted in the paring of wood and bread as re-animated partners. Presented here as a kind of commercial Trojan horse for the discursive elements of abstraction, memory, and intentionality relative to the propagation of sculptural forms in both a serialized and specific manner.

eight episodes for the bakery of blok zin taylor

The single channel video Eight Pilot Episodes for The Bakery of Blok depicts the production of bread by eight wood blocks in an abandoned bakery. The structure of a television pilot was used to highlight the propositional nature of the information contained within this work. Beginning with the rise of the sun, each bock character is introduced to the audience. The voice of each block is a different sound produced by wood. Scratchy, knocking, popping, and swirling are terms that textually approximate the sounds of each character. Following this introductory episode the environment and daily monotony of these blocks is introduced and explored with brief interactions and confrontational discussions between the elders and the young ones. One day an ideogram of bread is discovered posted to a wall in the distance. Using this graphic as a place of departure the block begin a discussion that explores the immediate surroundings to develop the necessary equipment to produce this alien form, bread. Tools, measures, and weights are developed from found and mysteriously summoned piles of wood in order to transform the loose piles of ingredients, flour, salt, yeast, water, into a mixture that is eventually transformed into bread. Once a successful loaf is produced, a piece of the dough is saved into a custom built octagonal container. This dough, also referred to as a starter or sponge, enables the group of eight blocks (The Bakers of Blok) to endlessly produce this same bread form.

This process of a yeast starter is standard in most European and western bakeries. Yeast starters have been traced back 300 to 400 years in Europe whereas the oldest recorded starter in North America belongs to a bakery in San Francisco and dates from 1890. To enable the continued existence of this organic form the yeast requires daily handling. If the yeast starter is not used, it dies. A lot has happened in the last 400 years. Because of the starter’s demand for daily handling, this little dough mixture adopts the role of a material witness, absorbing the information of each day as it’s handled by the baker. This dough is then made into a series of identical soft forms then baked into a solid form, units of information, distributed like newspapers and periodicals to a base of customers. The bread as form serial documents each day of its existence. Each unit of bread, 60cm long by 6cm wide by 5cm tall, is a unit of memory, one that can be consumed by an audience.

In France the baguette style of bread is carefully protected to ensure standardization and accessibility to its citizens. Bakeries must adhere to a strict list of ingredients, their weights, the length and width of the bread, and the number of slashes on its surface. Everyday a particular list of ingredients in determined quantities are mixed together to produce a series of identical bread forms that are then consumed by a population, or, that bakeries constituency. If the constituency does not agree with the bakeries style of production (or story as I approach it) then that bakery is not able to continue its production. That story is lost to the public. As a metaphor for the entropic movement of information the bakery that is popular is that of the dominant discussion, the hot zone. The bakery that is closed is the cold zone, the island of minor information deemed unnecessary and out of fashion as it relates to the major island of popular activity.

Within this constructed relationship the narrative depicted in Eight Pilot Episodes for The Bakery of Blok addresses forgetfulness, memory, and how discussion propagates additional forms. The relationships of narrative and material are developed sculpturally within the video and are the result of an active address of a subject’s historical and situational surroundings. The language these forms use to communicate (wood for wood and bread for bread) is incomprehensible to a larger public. The language is as specialized as that of many cultural subsets who have fashioned an existence of difference relative to the dominant fluency of the major cultural, social, and political themes and their practitioners. Conversely in recent popular programming for television and cinema the use of gibberish-based languages have enabled a larger audience to be addressed by situating the communicative content of a narrative within an area of audience projection. The Italian children’s stop animation program Pingu is the most successful example of this. Celebrated internationally for its accessible content that addresses situationally humorous lessons for children, the program is perhaps more of a success for popularly introducing abstraction as an economic tool. Because the characters of Pingu speak gibberish, the episodes do not need overdubbing. The adventures of Pingu and its friends are visually and aurally communicated through a narrative sequence that relies on tools of observation and projection. The abstract voices amplify and direct the information that is introduced through action. That abstraction can be used to address a larger public is employed within Eight Pilot Episodes for The Bakery of Blok to extend the material simplicity of the objects depicted, bread and wood, as a sculptural ground zero for the production of exploratory forms that first construct then populate a landscape with their actions.

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