Sue Scott Gallery

David Shapiro, Consumed

Martha Schwendener
Time Out New York, November 2003

On paper, David Shapiro's latest work, Consumed, sounds like a big gimmick. For the last two years, the filmmaker/artist has saved the packaging from every substance that has passed between his lips: every bag, bottle, box and wrapper. The whole lot, cleaned of perishable traces, was then hauled into the gallery and set up on metal shelves lihe those found in small supermarkets and bodegas.

In person, however, Consumed is considerably more affecting. Walking through the aisles, you find yourself asking questions that become increasingly uncomfortable. Shapiro eats a lot of Bumble Bee tuna and Stonyfield Farm yogurt—but did he really drink all that booze by himself? And what's with the gallons upon gallons of Deer Park water? Shapiro's consumption is described as a "self-portrait," but after a few minutes, it becomes an almost embarrassingly intimate glimpse into someone's private life.

Representing oneself with consumables is hardly unprecedented. Ashley Bickerton's Tormented self-portrait (Susie at Arles) (1988) included logos for condoms and other products that slyly alluded to the role that consumer goods play in creating not just an image but an identity. Shapiro reduces things to an even more basic level: You are what you eat. But calling his project self-portraiture is a bit misleading.

The real strength of Shapiro's consumption is described as a "self-portrait," but after Consumed is that it works iike a mirror, as a portrait not just of Shapiro but also of his viewers —and of a culture that relies on consumption not
only for sustenance but as a raison d'être.