THU TRAN made a name for herself as host of the delightfully crackpot cooking show Food Party. The TV show—which ran on IFC from 2009-2010—chiefly stars handmade puppets, and is emblematic of Tran's work: experimental, silly, and rife with what-the-fuck moments. Trailing its success, the Brooklyn-based artist has worked on various collaborative projects (including doing stage props for Girl Talk's live show). I caught up with Tran to discuss The Yes and No of Blacklight Food, her piece for TBA. Our conversation dropped us into the abyss of Google Image Search and 420-friendly dinner parties.
MERCURY: What will we see at your TBA performance?
THU TRAN: I will be giving a slide lecture on black-light-reactive food. The data I've compiled is based on personal experience. The photos are carefully curated from Google Image searches. I will also be giving a few black-light-related cooking demos for stage. Because cooking is an intimate activity, we will get up close and personal with a live video feed from my webcam. Matt Fitzpatrick, who composes music for most of my videos, will be onsite to provide live scoring.
A lot of your work involves collaboration; did collaboration play into this piece?
The idea itself spawned from a dinner party called "Blacklight T2" hosted by my old roommates and me. "T2" stands for Thanksgiving 2, typically held a week or two after Thanksgiving. It's a friends Thanksgiving dinner party; just friends and weed, and people either bring leftovers from their family's Thanksgivings, or prepare something that wouldn't typically fly at the family dinner table (weed Cool Ranch Dorito cornbread). One year, my roommates and I decided to make the theme "black light," and a trippy dinner party ensued.
What kind of Google searches did you run for the piece?
Sometimes I won't know what something is called, so I start with a blunt description, like "blood mushroom." I roll over my favorite images, and see what the JPEGs are labeled, looking for names, nicknames, Latin names, and search for those. I find names like "bleeding tooth fungi" and "Hydnellum peckii." Search for those, jackpot. It's very easy to tangent from here. "Bleeding tooth," "mouth injuries" (no!). The surf can go on for hours, but it always somehow winds up in a dark lonely place, "Lindsay Lohan 2012," "Bieber leg tattoo," or "Lohanthony GIFs."
Do you have any eatery plans for when you arrive in Portland?
I love the food cart and doughnut scene in Portland. I will definitely indulge in the big chocolate dong doughnut and the gay Froot Loops doughnut from Voodoo.
The Yes and No of Blacklight Food
Washington High School, Fri Sept 14, 10:30 pm, $5-7, pica.org