‘An Edible Family in a Mobile Home’ is open at Tate Britain and features a restaged cake installation once held in Stepney Green in 1976 and inspired by working-class families in the East End.
Bobby Baker’s 1976 art project ‘An Edible Family in a Mobile Home’, originally held in a Stepney Green housing estate, has now been restaged by Tate Britain as part of their new ‘Women in Revolt’ exhibition. The piece features four rooms inhabited by a working-class East-End family entirely made out of cake.
The installation is held on the South Lawn outside the Tate Britain and is free to visit for four weeks beginning 8 November to 3 December 2023 and will open again from 8 March until 7 April 2024.
If you were to time-travel back to 1976 and visit 13 Conder Street you would discover a rectangular prefab building standing amongst the Stepney housing estate with the words ‘son’,’ mother’,’ father’ and ‘baby’ scribbled in black graffiti on the outside walls. Inside the mobile home, three life-size figures sculpted entirely out of cake, meringues and biscuits are surrounded by walls plastered with newspaper headlines hailing the Thatcherite fallouts of the time.
A fruit cake father is slumped on an armchair, a Garibaldi biscuit son rests in the bath and a real woman, dressed as an East-End housewife in domestic garb, moves through the rooms, serving cups of tea as she greets guests into her home. This woman was Bobby Baker, a multidisciplinary artist, who in 1976 was a recent graduate from Central Saint Martins and Goldsmiths University, living in an ACME mobile home in Stepney Green.
The project, titled ‘An Edible Family in a Mobile Home’ ran for a week on Conder Street, the idea was inspired by the daily lives of ordinary East-End families living on the estate and the artist spent a month baking for the finished model.
Speaking in conversation with curator Gemma Lloyd, Baker said ‘I was living in an area surrounded by families with young children that I wanted to acknowledge…it was a real house in a real environment and I wanted local people to come’.
Flash forward almost 50 years, Baker’s East End prefab now stands as a remodel opposite the Thames, hot tea and edible family included. This comes as part of the Women In Revolt Exhibition which showcases 20 years of feminist artwork and activism in the UK throughout the years 1970-1990.
In her artwork, Baker offers some food for thought, drawing upon themes of female domesticity and gender roles in an ordinary 1970s East London home. The newspaper clippings which decorate the wallpaper, floor and ceiling, speak to the political happenings of Thatcherite Britain and are a reminder of the impact national politics has on private family relations.
As guests are encouraged to feast upon the family, the life-size sculptures disintegrate into crumbs and eventually disappear. Baker’s piece invites the audience to interact with methods of consumption and reverses traditional domestic roles so that it is the mother, usually considered invisible in society, who cannot be ‘eaten’.
The Tate remodel is a close to exact replica of the 1976 original, with baked goods and even a vegan option made by Lily Vanilli, assembled by Baker and her team at Daily Life Ltd.
After its run at the Tate, An Edible Family in a Mobile Home will tour the UK with a final presentation led by Idle Women, an artistic-social justice collaboration based in Lancashire. The prefab building will be permanently gifted to Idle Women to ensure its longevity beyond the exhibition.
If you’re interested in artists based in Whitechapel, learn about Canadian artist and fashion designer Michelle Lowe-Holder
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