I WAS TOLD THERE WOULD BE CAKE
3.11. - 19.11.2017.
Project Room, Helsinki
Group show: Andreas Behn - Eschenburg, Inga meldere, Brendan Moran & Sebastian Reis
One of my earliest memories is of a cake. Not so much a cake as the image of a cake.
When I was a child the bible of birthday cakes was The Australian Women’s Weekly Celebration Cookbook. It was of its time: on the cover was a dip and chip assemblage that looked like a hedgehog, and toothpicks with brightly coloured cellophane, twisted around one end, made a regular appearance, stabbed into a multitude of foodstuffs.
At the back of the book was the cake section. It was full of glossy pictures of potential birthday cakes: there was a rabbit, a train, a swimming pool, a koala. My brother had chosen the football pitch for his birthday. In reality it was just a run of the mill rectangular sponge covered in green icing. The line markings were made from white icing, which was piped on to the green one, and two teams of gummy bears, one red, one blue, were arranged on the surface of the sponge, in a 3-4-3 formation.
It was a big deal. Selecting the cake. I sat pouring over the images, weighing one against another, but I knew, when I saw it, that it had to be that one.
The strange thing is I don’t really like rainbows. Even then I wasn’t convinced by the colour scheme – lolly shades against a grey sky. But this one, with its bands of colour made from Smarties – did something to me.
It was (predictably) a slab of sponge but this time cut into an arc. It was coated with cream that was applied with a palette knife and rows of Smarties (all the colours but brown), were segregated by colour, and sat next to one another, in/on the cream, following the curvature of the arc.
The Australian Women’s Weekly Celebration Cookbook didn’t involve much cooking. It was more of a construction manual than a cookbook: A coated in B stuck to C with some D sprinkled on top. There was a surprising amount of inedible objects involved - not just the toothpicks: there were paper doyleys, paper hats atop lamb bones, and hard silver balls that were theoretically edible but would crack your tooth if you tried to eat one.
The cake was placed on a piece of cardboard that was covered in tin foil. At the bottom of the rainbow were two balls of cotton wool, and on/in the cotton wool, were two gold coins, of chocolate money.
I didn’t trust my mother to give form to the idea. I feared she would make some terrible blunder - forget the cotton wool, use the brown Smarties, (God forbid) put the line of yellow Smarties, next to the line of purple Smarties.
The deal was, I got to pick the cake, but I wouldn’t get to see it until the party. The cake would only materialise, on the day, in front of all the guests and then it would be too late - what if it was wrong?
I had been through all this before with knitting patterns. The idea versus the reality - the hideous jumpers that emerged. I pressed my mother on the subject: she wouldn’t forget the cotton wool? She knew that the coins had to be gold not silver?
The party was in the garden and the table for the cake, was set up under a tree, with dark green leaves.
She nailed it.
It was perfect, right down to the tin foil coated cardboard and the balls of cotton wool. The bands of colour were in the right order, and close enough, but far enough apart.
I don’t remember cutting the cake or eating the cake (it probably didn’t taste very good). But I remember the glow that seemed to pulse off it, the deeply satisfying sting of the colours, how they buzzed on the whiteness of the cake and reacted with one another, and within me.
If I showed you a picture of the cake you wouldn’t get it. You would not see what I saw, what I still see now when I picture it.
I saw a painting recently that did something to me in exactly the same way. Before I even knew what I was looking at I felt a deep, unsettling resonance. I couldn’t figure it out at first. I walked away. I forgot about it, and then, I remembered – the rainbow cake - not the cake, but the feeling, of the image, of the cake.
Text: Annie - May Demozay
Photos: Tuomas Linna