The Friday Arts Diary

Our cultural picks for the week ahead.

Art

The Barbican Center, London EC2: Bauhaus - Art as Life, until 12 August

The largest Bauhaus exhibition to be staged in the UK for 40 years, this show comprises a rich, diverse spectrum of work from the infamous art school known for its utopian ideals to shape post-world-war society through their philosophy of “art as life”. The show celebrates the varied artistic faculties that comprised the school during its “turbulent” 14-year history, displaying an engaging scope of work from both Bauhaus masters and students, including Wassily Kandinsky, Paul Klee and Gunta Stölzl.

The Queen's Gallery, Leonardo da Vinci: Anatomist, until 7 October

The Buckingham Palace gallery space opens its door for its largest ever display of the Renaissance polymath’s anatomical drawings. The artist intended to publish his groundbreaking series of medical sketches based on human and bestial cadavers, though his death in 1519 meant the staggering collection was effectively lost for almost 400 years. Today we can acknowledge da Vinci’s pioneering contribution to cataloguing and deepening our understanding of the human body. 

 

Music

Montpellier Gardens, Cheltenham: Cheltenham Jazz Festival, until 7 May

This self-proclaimed “start to the summer” runs through the bank holiday weekend and features top British and international jazz stars, including the acclaimed Guy Barker Orchestra and festival artist in residence Paloma Faith. Supplementary events like the Screening Room, a specially designed “boutique cinema”, and the Jazz Fringe Stage, featuring un-signed talent, make this vibrant event a staple in the summer music calendar.

 

Opera

Barbican Center, London EC2: Einstein on the Beach, until 13 May

Phillip Glass and Robert Wilson’s seminal and rarely preformed avant-garde work finally gets a revival almost twenty years after its last UK production. The non-narrative, four-act opera features Glass’ classically minimalist score composed for synthesizers and woodwinds as well as abstract dance sequences choreographed by Lucinda Childs. At five hours long (the audience is permitted to enter and exit at their liberty), this is unconventional theatrical immersion on a dazzling scale.

 

Literature

The British Library, London NW1: Writing Britain - Wastelands to Wonderlands, opens 11 May

This new exhibition charts the literary role of the British landscape - from the foundational legacy of romanticist William Blake through to 21st century mavericks like JG Ballard. Featuring over 150 works and a myriad of supplementary videos, letters, photographs, maps and drawings, the exhibition promises to “allow visitors to read between the lines of great works of English literature, discovering the secrets and stories surrounding the work’s creation, shedding new light on how they speak to the country today.”

 

Bauhaus - Art as Life at the Barbican Centre (photo: Getty Images)
Show Hide image

Why does food taste better when we Instagram it?

Delay leads to increased pleasure when you set up a perfect shot of your dinner.

Been on holiday? Take any snaps? Of course you did – but if you’re anything like me, your friends and family didn’t make it into many of them. Frankly, I can only hope that Mr Whippy and I will still be mates in sixty years, because I’m going to have an awful lot of pictures of him to look back on.

Once a decidedly niche pursuit, photographing food is now almost as popular as eating it, and if you thought that the habit was annoying at home, it is even worse when it intrudes on the sacred peace of a holiday. Buy an ice cream and you’ll find yourself alone with a cone as your companion rushes across a four-lane highway to capture his or hers against the azure sea. Reach for a chip before the bowl has been immortalised on social media and get your hand smacked for your trouble.

It’s a trend that sucks the joy out of every meal – unless, that is, you’re the one behind the camera. A new study published in the Journal of Personality and Social Psychology suggests that taking pictures of food enhances our pleasure in it. Diners at the food court of a farmers’ market in Philadelphia were asked either to photograph their meal or to eat “as you normally would”, then were questioned about how they found it. Those in the photography group reported that not only did they enjoy their meal more, but they were “significantly more immersed in the experience” of eating it.

This backs up evidence from previous studies, including one from this year in the Journal of Consumer Marketing, which found that participants who had been asked to photograph a red velvet cake – that bleeding behemoth of American overindulgence – later rated it as significantly tastier than those who had not.

Interestingly, taking a picture of a fruit salad had no effect on its perceived charms, but “when descriptive social norms regarding healthy eating [were] made salient”, photographing these healthier foods did lead to greater enjoyment. In other words, if you see lots of glossy, beautifully lit pictures of chia seed pudding on social media, you are more likely to believe that it’s edible, despite all the evidence to the contrary.
This may seem puzzling. After all, surely anything tastes better fresh from the kitchen rather than a protracted glamour shoot – runny yolks carefully split to capture that golden ooze, strips of bacon arranged just so atop plump hemispheres of avocado, pillowy burger buns posed to give a glimpse of meat beneath. It is hardly surprising that 95 million posts on Instagram, the photo-sharing site, proudly bear the hashtag #foodporn.

However, it is this delay that is apparently responsible for the increase in pleasure: the act of rearranging that parsley garnish, or moving the plate closer to the light, increases our anticipation of what we are about to eat, forcing us to consider how delicious it looks even as we forbid ourselves to take a bite until the perfect shot is in the bag. You could no doubt achieve the same heightened sense of satisfaction by saying grace before tucking in, but you would lose the gratification that comes from imagining other people ogling your grilled Ibizan sardines as they tuck in to an egg mayonnaise at their desk.

Bear in mind, though, that the food that is most successful on Instagram often has a freakish quality – lurid, rainbow-coloured bagel-croissant hybrids that look like something out of Frankenstein’s bakery are particularly popular at the moment – which may lead to some unwise menu choices in pursuit of online acclaim.

On the plus side, if a diet of giant burgers and salted-caramel lattes leaves you feeling queasy, take heart: if there is one thing that social media likes more than #avotoast, it is embarrassing oversharing. After a week of sickening ice-cream shots, a sickbed selfie is guaranteed to cheer up the rest of us. 

Felicity Cloake is the New Statesman’s food columnist. Her latest book is The A-Z of Eating: a Flavour Map for Adventurous Cooks.

This article first appeared in the 25 August 2016 issue of the New Statesman, Cameron: the legacy of a loser