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Merlyn Riggs

Feed the Five

2008

Aa man maun hae mait!
A Doric phrase which translates, 'You must eat!'
An examination of hospitality through traditional North East cooking

Merlyn Riggs is an Aberdeenshire based artist who was in residence from August to November 2008.

Merlyn’s question is shared by many of us: what shall I cook for tea tonight? But it also indicates a specific role in the community; a role of caring, hospitality and an embracing of home-life. What has this question to offer when explored in today’s community? and how can one highlight the traditions of good old family home cooking?

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There is an emphasis on active participation in Merlyn’s work, which produces stimulating encounters and unexpected social situations based on her exploration of the responsibilities and stereotypes of a given role, like the woman’s role in the family. Food is significant in her work as a sign of shared moments - where socialising takes place over pots of tea, shared recipes and stories. However, Merlyn, in her curious role as artist, curator, suffragette and Mrs. Beaton, both orchestrates a meaningful dialogue between the different people who participate in her projects and calls into question the notion of author through her dependency upon these individuals to make her artwork.

In an attempt to highlight the social and family values of good old home cooking, Merlyn held coffee mornings in the local Stewart’s Hall, sit-in sessions placing herself in an arm chair at the local butcher, and created an ongoing recipe-swapping hub and cookbook amnesty. These actions generated a great deal of discussion, while illustrating the amount of care and consideration that really goes into our everyday food preparations. As a result, the final event of her project was something of a domestic renaissance. Merlyn recruited no less than 50 women, fully fitted with aprons and similar regalia, each engaged to cook soup for their own manufactured ‘family’ of five people. With an overall gathering of 300 participants she highlighted the shared interests of artist and curator; homemaker and social activist creating situations where conversations develop between people of all walks of life. The recipes shared between new acquaintances are documented providing an answer to anyone yet to ask, ‘Fit’ll I mak fur supper the nicht?’

     

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