In a culture of individuality, sweet foods are often associated with indulgence, over-consumption, and by extension, loss of control. Sugar is perceived as an unnatural and excessive component to a healthy diet. Beyond its surface, the sweetness of sugar itself is imbued with specific power relations, as the origins of modern global trade are rooted in the colonial exchange of sugar as a commodity. Over time, colonized places would often form sentimental attachments and unconscious habits towards certain products. And it is Taiwan’s collective fondness for sweetness—there, the sugar industry was shaped by Dutch occupation and various regime changes—that Rosalie Yu examines in her project A Ritual of Habits (2017-18).
In this project, the artist uses 3D scanning to chronicle all the sweet foods she has consumed over the course of two years. A glistening egg tart, multi-colored macarons, or a nicely filled Bavarian cream donut, to name just a few, are captured in exquisite detail. A staggering total of 169 items have been meticulously catalogued and uploaded to an open-source platform.
They were subsequently placed in a virtual environment, which was used to create an accompanying 360 degree video that a user can freely explore. The video slowly reveals a banquet table lined with all manners of cakes and pastries, as well as walls decorated with the sweet trophies. Stripped of their enticing sheen by the method of capture, these sweet objects appear forlorn, dusty, and ghostly, as if awaiting an unveiling that never arrives.
Veniero's cream pastry by Rosalie Yu on Sketchfab
Ziv's wedding by Rosalie Yu on Sketchfab
Photogrammetry is an evolving technique that takes overlapping photographs of an object from multiple angles and combines them to construct a three-dimensional digital model. A software could take a pint of oreo ice cream and generate a 'point cloud' of spatial coordinates that would then be stitched together to create a complete capture of a scene. The application of such a repetitive as well as time and CPU intensive process to something as mundane as eating transforms the act of consumption into a self-aware, performative ritual, essentially turning ‘intake’ into an ‘output’ of elaborate steps.
As a result, Yu’s presentation resembles less the scare tactic employed by diet coaches in reality TV shows to demonstrate how much food a person has gone through in a prolonged period of time, than a deeply personal, therapeutic act that attempts to reconcile with her and her family’s complex relationship to sugary products.
About the artist:
Rosalie’s practice explores concepts of reciprocity, participatory process, and embodied experience, often through emerging photographic techniques and immersive media.