‘Unpickling Aspic’ by Olivia Keith


Unpickling Aspic was an unspoken performance piece; duration thirty minutes,which took place as part of the Harris Flights programme. It developed from a jelly project with residents at the local Sue Ryder Care Home during which tools were adapted and a repertoire of gestures and actions uncovered. It was to resonate with elements of ‘Literature, Arts and Science’ and specifically referenced Mrs French’s huge collection of scent bottles at the Harris Museum.

Polished metal tableware, concealing colourful jellies, were formally brought out from the museum building by one of the staff and delivered to a dinner table. The steampunk staging had three animateurs systematically dismantling the jellies with the aid of corers, corkscrews, cheese wires, slicers, a samovar and a spirit burner. Each jelly encapsulated an historical perfume, releasing odours and revealing their natural ingredients. By the end of the piece sections of dismembered jelly had been reassembled to resemble the cut glass vessels of the collection.

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