The Ac­cent Se­ries


When first in­tro­duced, monosodium glu­ta­mate (MSG) was not the an­tag­o­nized evil that it is of­ten know as to­day. From the 1930s to late 1960s, MSG was com­monly used in North Amer­ica, of­ten mar­keted un­der the brand “Ac­cent” and ad­vised to be used as an­other sea­son­ing in ad­di­tion to salt and pep­per. As more para­noia came to sur­round MSG, Western at­ti­tudes shifted, as­sign­ing the neg­a­tive con­no­ta­tions of MSG solely on Chi­nese cuisine. To this day, it is fre­quently only Chi­nese and East-Asian restau­rants that are forced to at­test that they do not use the sea­son­ing in their es­tab­lish­ment to as­sure cus­tomers that their busi­ness is safe.

Vis­ceral and of­ten com­mu­nal, food is one of the most ac­ces­si­ble ways to en­gage with a cul­ture. Through its con­sump­tion, cre­ation, and in­ter­pre­ta­tion, food pos­sesses the unique ca­pa­bil­ity to ex­tend be­yond its cor­po­real re­stric­tions to re­flect in­di­vid­ual and shared sto­ries, and his­tor­i­cal and po­lit­i­cal cli­mates. Com­bin­ing a his­tory of prod­uct mar­ket­ing along­side archival ma­te­ri­als, Ac­cent presents a case study of the nu­anced and racial­ized un­der­tones within the ev­ery­day.

I Can’t Be­lieve It’s MSG presents an artist’s mul­ti­ple in the form of a small bag of MSG. Stylis­ti­cally sim­i­lar to bags used for dis­tribut­ing drugs, I Can’t Be­lieve It’s MSG ad­dresses the con­tra­band na­ture of the en­hancer, com­bin­ing hu­mour with the vis­ual lan­guage of ad­ver­tis­ing.

No MSG is a re-cre­ation of a neon sign hung from the win­dow of Toronto’s Lee Gar­den Restau­rant. Lee Gar­den opened in 1978. In 2017, the restau­rant sud­denly an­nounced it was clos­ing its doors af­ter thirty-nine years.

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