Marginalia, Graduate Blog

The Big Show (Part 2): A Simple Cereal

Mike St. John

On April 20th, the crowd entered the B&P Gallery with the smell of baked cereal in the air. A Kitchenaid mixer whirred to life, and the pin rollers flattened dough into thin sheets for the oven. A timer dinged. Feet shuffled back and forth. In the center, a large blue-shirted blur untied an apron and grabbed a scoop to fill sample cereal boxes. Yes, this is my memory of the opening of A Simple Cereal and the MFA Thesis exhibition. I’d like to share a few more pieces of the night with you.

I mentioned the phenomena of Thesis Face in the last blog post. To sum up, TF is the zombified state one enters when one is in the (seemingly) hopeless Sisyphean trek to the show opening. Now, what happens when you overcome TF, finish the installation, and see crowds of happy, question-hungry people enter the gallery? Something I like to call Show Opening Syndrome–I would know, I experienced it all night. The main symptoms of SOS (…irony is not lost on me…) are opposite of TF: increased speed, rapid talking, smiling, and unapologetic ebullience towards yourself, your work, others, the universe, etc. etc.

The positivity made the night memorable in that good-dream-you-can’t-quite-remember sort of way.

What I do remember was my first group of customers. Up until then, only my girlfriend and I had tasted A Simple Cereal. There were no focus groups or taste-testers. Plus, we had eaten our fair share of the cereal– the good and the questionable– over the past few months, to the point where our tastebuds had grown numb from the recipe.

I held my breath as the first spoon entered the first mouth…and the first chew…until the first smile.

Yes! They liked it.

From there, it was a flurry of good-hearted questions and compliments about the food, especially how to make it. Given my recent post here, I was more than happy to divulge the not-so-secret method of making A Simple Cereal. Between the ASC website, Marginalia, and the live demonstration, the public had plenty of opportunity to take my recipe and make it their own.

The conversation around the breakfast table was the most gratifying component of the installation. As a rule, food tends to loosen the jaw, and A Simple Cereal did not disappoint. Suggestions and stories flew across the gingham tablecloth.

Had I considered farmers’ markets as a means to sell my cereal?

What about live demonstrations outside of the gallery?

Did I plan on partnering with a non-profit?

These wonderful thoughts came from the grand experiment I had set up in the gallery. I knew there would be discourse, but I had no idea to what extent, rigor, or depth until the talk was actually happening. My goal was to serve the people; I believe all artists have this innate need. So, when the need is satiated and returned tenfold, it was an overwhelming feeling. I had made something that created a reaction…a positive reaction. Even now, I am still trying to wrap my head around the experience.

The night came and went. The show ended even as I served stragglers and latecomers at my table. I could pack it up. It was time to celebrate. The Big Show had opened with a bang. After a full year of work, Thesis had been realized.

I gave the last cereal box of the night to a good friend who had come in from Bourbonnais to see the show. I did what I had done for over two hours with all my other customers–I signed his box. It was with that last signature that I felt the night was finished. A flourish in blue pen on a dotted line, so much like my movements around my own space between making and serving cereal. It was then I could take a deep breath and let the weight roll off of me.

I did it.

I did it, I did it, I did it.

The Big Show (Part 2): A Simple Cereal

On April 20th, the crowd entered the B&P Gallery with the smell of baked cereal in the air. A Kitchenaid mixer whirred to life, and the pin rollers flattened dough …

Interdisciplinary Arts & Media MFA Mike St. John, chadrikosuave@aol.com
600 S. Michigan Ave. Chicago, IL 60605

The Graduate Experience