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.