In 1962 Alison Knowles conceptualised a set of written instructions, also called event scores, titled Propositions. Number two of the set simply states “Make a salad”; a command that she has implemented over the past fifty years at a number of events. The simplicity of the written instructions allows for an expansive interpretation of the score. With no restrictions as to the contents, scale, or assembly of the salad, the performance can be modified or altered as needed. In addition to the textual Proposition, Knowles has repeatedly performed Make a Salad in differing contexts and formats. A typical performance of Make a Salad consists of Knowles alongside a set of performers washing, chopping and assembling a salad with the noises associated with each action producing the sound score of the performance. The “concert” culminates in the creation of a salad offered to the audience for consumption.

 

Alison Knowles, Make a Salad. 1962, Performed at the Institute of Contemporary Arts, London, October 1962. Reproduced from Julia Robinson, “The Sculpture of Indeterminacy: Alison Knowles’s Beans and Variations,” Art Journal 63, no. 4 (2004): 98.

 

A photograph of Knowles performing Make a Salad  in London at the Institute of Contemporary Art in 1962 depicts her using a large pickle barrel to collect and contain the salad ingredients. For this version, she performed the action standing on a stage and the resulting dish was served directly from the barrel, as depicted in photographic documentation (pictured above). This image serves to illustrate the difference in scale of the various re-stagings of Make a Salad. Compared to a recent 2012 version on the High Line in Manhattan, expanded to feed 1,000 people, the 1962 London performance now appears somewhat modest in scale. In the High Line performance, a ring of spectators held a large, green, plastic tarp, which contained the salad ingredients. The performance was dramatised by Knowles “tossing” the ingredients by dropping them from the High Line (an abandoned, elevated railway track renovated as a park and public walkway) down onto a tarpaulin held open by the spectators on the Chelsea street below. Bags of lettuce leaves and jugs of dressing were dumped into the centre of the tarp and Knowles used a rake to mix the ingredients before again serving the resulting dish to an audience. In this version, the audience/consumers were active participants in the assembly of the salad and as such, became assistants. The use of agricultural equipment to construct the salad further underlines the shift in scale of the performance.

 

Alison Knowles, Make a Salad. 1962, Performed at the Chelsea Market Passage on the High Line in New York City, 22 April 2012. Reproduced from Walker Art Center, accessed 10 December 2014, http://www.walkerart.org/calendar/2014/alison-knowles-make-a-salad.

 

[Recipe: Make a Salad]

Chop lettuce, cucumber, and avocado. Dress (I used this French vinaigrette) and serve.

 

 

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