Bowling Green, Ohio
Sensing the Past and Present
Deceptive marketing is all around us. Everyday we are sold on new ideas and items. Fed through our insecurities or lack of knowledge, we are all part of a society that exchanges ideas and goods in order to achieve happiness. Through a somesthetic experience, the hypocrisy and obfuscation of an authentic Amish image is brought into question with this installation. Located in the Woodland Mall’s old “A Taste of Amish Deli,” the installation encompass ideas of how we come to conclusions of authentic happiness and illusions of happiness.
The Amish are commonly known as a self sustained community; primitive, simple living, and reluctant to adapt to modern conveniences. Somehow, we are conditioned to think that the Amish has a better or “authentic” living. And the idea of ‘Amish made’ can be tasted and bought in order for us to enjoy the happy aspects of ‘Amish’. With the homeyness of comfort foods as the highlight, “A Taste of Amish Deli” marketed the homemade pies, jams, and meats. The reality is that the owner was trained by Troyer to market the ‘Amish’ through their company’s deli program.
Troyer Cheese claims their authenticity by having a classic backstory to how the business began and grew. “Jonas Troyer was raised as an Amish boy in Holmes County Ohio. At age 20, he fell in love with a lovely English girl who at that time was attending nursing school. In 1959 he bought a station wagon and began delivering cheese made from local cheese manufacturers. The local mechanics questioned why they had to keep replacing the lock on the trunk of that station wagon, and it was because of all the cheese that he sold! Fifty five years later we package, manufacture, smoke, and distribute our products to 48 states. We are a family owned business, and our customers are family owned businesses” (Troyer). When we become aware of the marketing strategies employed, the hypocrisy in businesses becomes evident. The non-authentic products are obscured to seem authentic through the utilization of marketing strategies that hinders our ability to recognize the product source and facts. In the installation, the plastic used to cover the room including the menu signs and the display cooler reflect the notion of product reality being obscured.
Everything seems to be wrapped and packaged in plastic obstructing product view. There are not many products that are not packaged in someway. By covering the space with plastic, the room was filled with an non-authentic, cheap and mass production facility feel that further obscured the products displayed in the meat and pastry cases. On the obscuring plastic, enticing words for the Amish Deli like “yummy” and “delicious” leached onto viewer's perception. With the attraction of colors projected onto the plastic draped over the pastry case, and in the room, childhood nostalgia and a happy mood is created. Products are marketed to target the ‘happy image’ as Sarah Ahmed has argued, “Happiness functions as a promise that directs us toward certain objects, which then circulate as social goods” (Ahmed 29).
The mall where this space is located has become a community of loss. Jello comes in happy colors and notions of happiness. Each Jello cup was opened and prepped with the spoons inserted encouraging audience participation through deceptive marketing. Jello communicates happiness and bodily memories from childhood for many and even though the presentation of the open jello were not enticing, the idea of the object encouraged viewers to taste. Claire Bishops quotes Felix GonzalezTorres, “I’m giving you this sugary thing; you put it in your mouth and you suck on someone else’s body. And in this way, my work becomes part of so many other people’s bodies… For just a few seconds, I have put something sweet in someone's mouth and that is very sexy” (Bishop 115). Gonzalez Torres takes the approach of authenticity with the candy in space giving genuine sweetness that gives him pleasure. On the other hand, the approach used for the jello in the Amish Deli installation were to deceive and confuse the participants on authentic and illusions of happiness.
Another deceptive method used to stir the senses was the bacon smell that permeated near the meat cooler. There was no actual bacon but the smell allowed for the recognition of the commonly and socially craved ‘happy’ smell. A Taste of Amish Deli’s popular item is the BLT and that satisfies people’s hunger even though there is no immediate connection to Amish culture and the BLT. The homeyness and the rawness of the bacon created a sense of authenticity for “A Taste of Amish Deli”. And so by including the false sense of bacon presence in the installation, the authenticity of the products are questioned, making us
question our own perception of the world.
Opening the wide imitation barn doors and walking through the strips of plastic into the
Amish Deli installation and being encompassed by plastic(artificial/unauthentic), effects of colors, sounds of machinery, smell of bacon, warmth of the room, obscured menu and products in cases, and entrance to the meat viewing room created an overwhelming confusion. The somaesthetic experience of this installation is manipulated to create confusion in what it is that makes us “happy” and how we process information to decide what it is we are willing to accept for our perceived happiness. How are we willingly deceived for the sake of our happiness?
Claire Bishop, “Activated Spectatorship” in Installation†Art∫†A†Critical†History†(New York:
Routledge, 2005), 115
Sarah Ahmed, “Happy Objects” in The†Affect†Theory†Reader†, eds. Melissa Gregg and
Gregory J. Seigworth (Durham: Duke University Press, 2010), 29
Troyer Cheese Co. 2015. Online. March 2015