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An Edible Family in a Mobile Home, 1976, 2023
FREE, drop in, 11.00–17.00 Monday to Sunday (last admission 16.30) between 8 November – 3 December 2023 and 8 March- 7 April 2024.
Find the installation on Tate Britain's South Lawn near Millbank Entrance.
Update: The home is now closed until 8 March 2024.
From 8 November 2023, Tate Britain is presenting a restaging of Bobby Baker's radical sculptural installation An Edible Family in a Mobile Home, which has not been seen for almost 50 years.
Originally staged in 1976, a replica of Baker’s prefabricated east London Acme house is sited outside Tate Britain on the South Lawn. It contains five life-size sculptures of family members made from cake, biscuits, meringues and snacks, which can be steadily eaten by the public. Visitors to Tate Britain are invited into the home to sample the edible sculptures whilst browsing the interior, and talking to hosts trained by Baker herself.
The installation is part of Tate Britain’s major new exhibition Women in Revolt! Art and Activism 1970-1990. The exhibition features over 100 women artists and celebrates their often-unsung contribution to British culture. Open from 8 November 2023 to 7 April 2024, the show includes photographs of Baker’s original sculptural installation from 1976. The restaged Edible Family is open to the public and free to visit for the first four weeks of the exhibition from 8 November – 3 December and again for the final four weeks of the exhibition 8 March – 7 April 2024.
Baker originally staged her installation over the course of a week in 1976 in her prefab home in Stepney. Visitors were invited to eat the ‘family’ and were offered cups of tea by Baker, who performed the role of polite female host. The family members occupied various rooms in Baker’s home, whose walls were plastered in newspaper and decorated with icing, scenting the air with sugar. In the living room, a father made of fruit cake slumped in an armchair surrounded by tabloid news stories; in the bath, a teenage son adorned with garibaldi biscuits lay in chocolate cake bathwater, against a background of boys' comics; and in the kitchen, a mother constructed from a dress maker’s mannequin with a teapot for a head, offered a constant supply of fairy cakes, sandwiches and fruit from compartments in her hollow abdomen. Baker baked, sculpted and decorated each of these family members herself over the course of three months.
The work outside Tate Britain is a replica of the original artwork, with several elements updated by the artist. The figures of a son, daughter, husband, wife, and baby are formed of garibaldi biscuits, meringue and various flavours of cake (including a vegan option), baked by Lily Vanilli and assembled by Baker and her team. Following a period of research with the UCL’s Institute for Making, Baker has used a contemporary icing to decorate the walls of the house, while the building’s structure has been slightly adapted to improve accessibility. The hosts, specially trained by Baker, include students from Chelsea College of Art and young women recruited through race and class inclusion charity You Make It.
After its run at Tate Britain, Edible Family will travel to coincide with the tour of Women in Revolt! to the Whitworth Gallery in Manchester. Following the end of its tour, the prefab house will be donated to Idle Women, a Lancashire-based arts, environment and social justice organisation which works to create transformative spaces for women in their local community. The organisation’s members will decide on their preferred use for the structure – which could include a community café or creative space – and then use the skills taught by Idle Women to repurpose the building, ensuring it has a long and valuable life beyond the exhibition.
Click here to read a conversation between Bobby Baker and independent curator, Gemma Lloyd, about the installation.
Artistic Director: Bobby Baker
Production Designer: Miranda Melville
Technical Director: Steve Wald
Producer: Caroline Smith
Development: Ilana Mitchell
House Fabrication: Miraculous Engineering
Materials Development: Ellie Doney
Cake: Lily Vanilli
Meringues: Cotswold Handmade Meringues
Makers : Millie Holland, Terri Mercieca, Maja Quille
Live Producer (hosts): Daisy Gould
Artist Liaison : Gemma Lloyd
Production Office: Melissa Bradshaw, Kemi Williams
Evaluation: Dora Whittuck
With special thanks to Rachel Fleming-Mulford and Linsey Young,
without whose early support and enthusiasm this re-staging would not have been possible.
See full list of credits and supporters here.
EPIC DOMESTIC is Bobby Baker’s artistic mission to fight gender injustice, connect communities, and challenge the unequal division of domestic labour in the home. Inspired by activism, propaganda, and the untold stories of women all over the world, EPIC DOMESTIC is a quest to create a Domestic Revolutionary Party fit for the 21st Century.
Sign up here to stay informed about EPIC DOMESTIC and find out how you can join the Revolution!
Bobby Baker sculpture
Dressed in an old ballgown of her mother’s, a maid’s cap, and elaborate make up, Bobby Baker carved up a life-size baby made from cake presented upon a meat platter. Despite being presented at Ovalhouse, which had a reputation for showcasing radical art, people expressed horror and shock at the act, which Baker herself had perceived as an appropriate and interesting image associated with the festival of Christmas.
Birthday Tea Party
Bobby Baker sculpture
Artist’s sitting room, Anerley, London
In an attempt to strike a balance between Baseball Boot Cake (1972) not being eaten and Cake Christmas Dinner (1972) being overwhelmed by drunken students, Bobby Baker hosted a tea party to display a selection of cakes, meringues and jellies that included a seated nude woman as its centrepiece. Not wanting to ‘spoil’ the display guests refrained from taking part, highlighting the challenges of overcoming behavioural codes and habits.
Cake Christmas Dinner
Bobby Baker sculpture
St Martin’s School of Art, London
An entire life-size Christmas dinner made from cake including turkey, leg of ham, and all the trimmings. Made for the art school’s Christmas party, the ‘spread’ was soon demolished by guests in a setting that Bobby Baker hoped would overcome the problem of wasting food.
Sweet and Sour
Bobby Baker performance
2 April 1974
St Martin’s School of Art, London
Framed as a commentary on the pros and cons of sentimentality, Sweet and Sour was Bobby Baker’s earliest use of the cookery demonstration format as a framework for a performance. It began with 50 boxed marzipan roses that were sent out to people as invitations. At the performance proper, Baker worked with a mobile kitchen to create sweet and sour pork balls and crystallised roses, which she served to her audience with glasses of rosé to a soundtrack that included a voiceover of poet George R Sim’s ‘Billy’s Dead and Gone to Glory’.
To Bring a Sheep to Consciousness We Must Eat It Therefore to Bring Virginia Woolf to Consciousness We Must Eat Her
Bobby Baker sculpture and performance
New Contemporaries, Camden Arts Centre, London
Taking its cue from a Sufi proverb and made in tribute to Virginia Woolf, this edible artwork took the form of a seated life-size figure assembled from 1080 buns decorated with marzipan. It was installed for the opening of the exhibition New Contemporaries, where Bobby Baker served up slices to visitors. As the buns were dismantled it gradually revealed bookshelves and ornaments.
Performance Art Collective Christmas Party
Bobby Baker sculpture
For this work Bobby Baker decorated a homemade Christmas tree at the ICA with hot miniature Christmas puddings. It was created on the occasion of the Performance Art Collective’s Christmas party whose guests were encouraged to help themselves to a ‘bauble’. The Performance Art Collective was headed by the film director and screenwriter Sally Potter and hosted by the late Ted Little, who was Director of the ICA between 1974 and 1977. Members included Rose English, Anne Bean, Judith H. Katz, and Jacky Lansley.
An Edible Family in a Mobile Home
Bobby Baker installation
13 Conder Street, Stepney, London
For this project, Bobby Baker transformed the Acme Housing Association prefab that she was living in into a week-long sculptural installation that housed an edible family of five: mother, father, teenage daughter, son, and baby.
Assembled from cake and adorned with icing, biscuits and other baked goods, the family members could be encountered in rooms throughout the house: the baby asleep in her cot, the son in the bath, the teenage daughter listening to the radio in her parents’ bedroom, the father slumped in an armchair in front of the television. The mother was the only mobile member of the family who moved throughout the house but was more often found in the kitchen, where visitors could enjoy a cup of tea from her head, or other soft drinks, and have fresh snacks from compartments in her abdomen. Against a backdrop of walls and surfaces covered in newsprint and magazines, and decorated with icing sugar, Baker performed as hostess. She offered food and encouraged visitors to consume, and thereby dismantle, the family.
Bobby Baker: ‘For the first time I decided to dispense with the problem of deciding what to wear…I would always adopt a more neutral garb, in the form of a woman’s overall. I liked the fact that it was neutral and yet deeply complex in the ways in which it could be read. Also, it was my conscious female riposte to Joseph Beuys’ macho fishing waistcoat and hat.’
Funded by Arts Council England
Roving Diagnostic Unit
Daily Life Ltd. project
25 July 2015
Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park, London
13 October 2016
William Morris Gallery, London
In their role as custodians of our heritage and culture, museums and galleries categorise, define, and label their contents. Roving Diagnostic Unit critiqued modern psychiatric diagnosis, which seeks to do the same things with ‘patients’; people experiencing mental distress. In doing so, the project exposed some of the absurdities of the mental health system, while highlighting the strengths and talents of people who have been 'diagnosed'.
Led by ‘Dr Bobby’ (Bobby Baker), the Roving Diagnostic Unit had two iterations. The first was at Tower Hamlets Cemetary Park commissioned for Shuffle Festival in 2015. The second was a year later, at William Morris Gallery and park. For both, Baker invited contributions from other artists and fellow Experts by Experience of the mental health system.
For Shuffle Festival, participants were invited by Baker to consider the predicaments of the everyday objects in the park – did the litter-bin suffer hoarding symptoms? Perhaps the pond was delusional? The bench by the path seemed uneasy: social anxiety disorder? The event featured contributions by writer-performer-artist sean burn, artist Simon Raven, and singer-songwriter Dylan Tighe.
At the William Morris Gallery, pertinent questions were again asked in order to ‘diagnose’ the Gallery and its surrounding park, with artists commissioned to create participatory adventures for the public. Questions asked included, does the gift shop display hoarding symptoms? Perhaps the textile collection has family problems: generalised anxiety disorders? Are the toilets experiencing grandiose delusions? The artists involved alongside Baker were Rhiannon Armstrong, Sara Haq, Marie Louise Plum, Kate Rolison, Selina Thompson, whatsthebigmistry; singer-songwriter Dylan Tighe; and writer-performer-artist sean burn.
By exploring the psychiatric diagnostic framework through an artistic and witty lens, Roving Diagnostic Framework questioned the assumption that our state of mind can be defined by an ‘expert’ and that people can be conveniently labelled as disordered.
The Roving Diagnostic Unit at the William Morris Gallery was supported by Wellcome, Paul Hamlyn Foundation, and London Borough of Waltham Forest.
Letting in the Light
Daily Life Ltd. project
21 January – 23 March 2016
The Grove, Stratford High Street, London
Referencing Groucho Marx’s words ‘Blessed are the cracked, for they shall let in the light.’, Letting in the Light showcased the work of 35 artists with personal experience of mental distress from across the UK. The works were selected by a panel including Bobby Baker, artist Sara Haq and curators from Bethlem Gallery and Outside In, Pallant House. Displayed on freestanding lightboxes throughout the dark winter months, the works illuminated Stratford High Street in east London and encouraged people to re-consider their preconceptions about mental health.
The exhibition included artworks by Anna Berry, Anthony Woods-McLean, Chris Gray, Daniel Reagan, Dolly Sen, George Harding, Graeme Newton, Greenwoodflett, Greg Bromley, Helen Parker, Jackie Bennet, Jan Arden, Jane McCormick, Jasmine Surreal, John Jennings, Julia M Oak, Kate Rolison, Kim Feld, Kristina Veasey, Lea Cummings, Lesley Greening Lassoff, Liz Atkin, Manuela Hubner, Martin Phillimore, Nuala Hamilton, Phil Baird, Sara Rivers, Stephanie Bates, Sue Morgan, Sue Trickey, Terence Wilde, Tess Springhall, Tilley Milburn, Yvonne Mary Parker
The Expert View
Daily Life Ltd. project
7 & 8 May 2015
The Expert View was a two-day micro-festival held across various sites in east London to explore ‘expertise’ in arts and mental health, from the perspectives of all involved. It was organised in partnership with Bromley By Bow Centre and Friends of East End Loonies (F.E.E.L).
The festival included a performance double bill with Selina Thompson and Laura Jane Dean at Arts 2, Queen Mary University London, and a symposium at the Bromley By Bow Centre, hosted by Bobby Baker. The symposium investigated ‘expertise’, the value of lived experience, and ways of evaluating collaborative work. Contributions came from leading academics, artists and practitioners working at the cutting edge of arts and mental health practice. These included Jacqui Dillon, Hearing Voices Network; Dr Caoimhe McAvinchey, Queen Mary University London; Marc Steene, Outside In; Beth Elliott, Bethlem Gallery; Dr Dave Harper, University of East London; and Lucy Wells, Bromley by Bow Centre. Performances and interventions took place throughout the day by artists Simon Raven and Dolly Sen. The festival concluded with the Cure All Cabaret; an evening of live music, performance and spoken word at Kingsley Hall, hosted by Baker and singer-songwriter Dylan Tighe with contributions from F.E.E.L poets and friends.