Do you remember April 19, 1995? If you’ve lived around here since then, you’ve got deeply embedded memories, nightmares you can’t shake. We all know someone who was affected, whether they died, or they should have been there and almost died, or they stayed and helped pull screaming bodies out of the aftermath: shattered glass, blackened steel from parked automobiles spilling out like a ribcage escaping from the flesh of a man who swallowed a grenade, flames and cinderblocks and cops and national newspeople and all the chaos that comes along with the deadliest act of domestic terrorism to hit American soil.
The memorial downtown still gets me every single time. Walking inside and seeing the quiet and shallow pool of water glistening black even in the mid-day sun, the silence and solemness overcomes me and after a few minutes I’ll cry because I remember being a little kid when it all happened and other little kids died simply by being in the same place that a far-right terrorist decided was a good place to leave a fertilizer bomb inside of a Ryder truck.
Have you ever walked by that fence where kids leave Pokemon charm bracelets or whatever they have in their pockets because their sponsor is telling them to put a tribute on the fence, even though they’re too young to understand death or the fear of death, and all they can do is hang up the yellow ribbon from the aggie competition they won because they had a sheep in the mix because they were bused into town from Enid to show off livestock? Or have you seen whatever other weird ephemera that appears and disappears at that sad chainlink place at the west side of the memorial, like lanyards from Cincinatti insurance folks who dropped in for a conference and felt like what they needed to do was leave their hotel keycard as an offering to this monument of terror and sadness?
It’s a major bummer that everyday kids see this and have to somehow wrap their minds around the fact that in the years ago that have gone on and passed, other kids that were about their age blew up and died in an explosion because some shithead white guy read ‘The Turner Diaries’ once and figured that was a good pathway.
Now that we’re nearly 25 years removed from the event, a baker in Brooklyn thinks thought that it would cute to make a cake in the shape of the Murrah Building blowed-up. Vice decided she’s worth profiling because they need clicks as badly as we do.
Here’s the Instagram post of her Murrah Building cake:
For one, that’s not even a fucking cake. All I can see is a bunch of nasty looking frosting, so if someone can point out where the cake is underneath all of that, let me know. I’ll take a slice and toss it out.
But cakes are food and food is art and art needs context to send a message. Maybe we’re just getting upset over nothing. After all, I truly believe that some of the most important art is confrontational and unsettling and offensive because artists need to get under our skin to turn our attention to what is truly important. One of the most powerful and moving works of art of the 20th century is ‘Guernica’ by Pablo Picasso:
There are few paintings that speak to the agony, pain, and suffering of modern warfare like this one, abstract as it is. This is just an example, and I love a lot of art that goes much darker than ‘Guernica,’ but let’s find out what the artist thinks about what she’s presenting:
What attracts you to using cake as your medium?
For me, cake is both a fun and practical medium. I’ve always loved to bake because it chills me out, and I really like eating. As an artist, I love to experiment with creating new textures and finding unconventional ways to engage the audience. I moved to New York and had little money or space, but I could afford cake mix and my kitchen had a counter and oven. Practically speaking, it’s cheap, non-toxic, and compostable. It’s also low stakes! It’s just cake! You can bake a new one and eat the first draft.
Cool, you like to make and eat cake. Me too, man. It tastes good and it’s cheap, what’s your philosophy?
What led to you making your “disaster cakes”? How did you select the particular disasters you thought would be a good fit?
Stories of man-made destruction are as ubiquitous as birthday cake. I choose these disasters because they are stand-alone moments of destruction that encapsulate our deepest cultural anxieties. Using cake, I make the proverbial car crash you can’t look away from, the bad news you can’t help but devour. I take familiar indulgences and distort them into repulsive forms; the viewer confronts simultaneous desire and disgust. The viewer is complicit in eating up the horror stories we’re told by the media and the government.
I choose the disasters intentionally. Personally, they are the real-life horror stories I grew up on. But on a larger cultural scale, although they come from completely different historical contexts, they’re both dreams turned into nightmares: For Chernobyl, the collective dream of harnessing nuclear power to transform the Ukrainian SSR; for the Oklahoma City Bombing, Timothy McVeigh perverted his belief of “freedom of expression” into freedom to kill in order to make a point. Both of these disasters led to horrific, long-lasting trauma for an entire nation (the largest nuclear meltdown in history, the most deadly attack on American soil at the time).
TL;DR: “Some stuff is bad but I like to make cake and listen to true crime podcasts.”
This is the most amateur-hour junior college excuse for art. Her cakes are very well made, and I won’t deny the craftsmanship. But to obsess over tragedy for the sake of tragedy because it’s an easy way to shock is lazy and doesn’t make you an artist. The baker lives in New York but hasn’t posted a 9/11 cake, and I’d love to see how that goes over in Brooklyn.
Honestly, I’m curious how it would be received if she showed up to the bombing memorial museum with her frosting replica of this awful mass-murder by a white terrorist. How do y’all feel about this?