Exhibition shows shocking side of consumption

Published: 18 September 2017 at 16:00

An item on display at the exhibition

‘Consumed: Stilled Lives’ goes on show at Anglia Ruskin University in Cambridge

Extraordinary, and at times shocking, still life images connecting the consumer and the act of consuming will go on show in Cambridge this week.

The exhibition, at Anglia Ruskin University’s Ruskin Gallery, runs from Thursday, 21 September until Saturday, 14 October and showcases the work of Anglia Ruskin lecturer Dr Dawn Woolley. 

Dr Woolley is a visual artist who uses photography, video, installation, performance and sound.  Earlier this year she beat over 14,000 entries to win the #SAATCHISELFIE competition.

Titled “Consumed: Stilled Lives”, the exhibition plays with the traditional concept of still life painting, which grew in popularity in the 16th and 17th centuries.  Often featuring silver plates, ornate glassware and expensive foodstuffs such as shellfish and exotic fruit, still life paintings became a fashionable way for the Dutch and Flemish to illustrate their wealth.

Dr Woolley, a Senior Lecturer in Photography at Anglia Ruskin, said: 


“The term ‘consume’ describes the act of eating as well as purchasing a commodity. The still life table expresses this dual meaning because the objects on display are edible and indicate an individual’s social position. 

“I therefore approach the still life table as a portrait of a particular type of consumer. This allows me to view food in a still life as an expression of a relation between an individual and consumer society, and a symbol of the effect commodity consumption has on the consumer’s body.”

The exhibition comprises of six series of mounted and framed still life photographs, two artist books, online projects on Instagram and Twitter, and a sound piece.  

And some photographs, such as the Memorials series, are not for the faint-hearted.  Dr Woolley added: 


“Memorials are neither still life nor portrait but represent the subject becoming nature morte.  Rotting flesh is arranged among the paraphernalia of celebration, signalling the end of the consumer party.” 

An accompanying symposium, Animate Objects: Encounters between People and Things, will take place on 13 October. More information is available here.

“Consumed: Stilled Lives” runs from 21 September until 14 October at the Ruskin Gallery at Anglia Ruskin’s Cambridge campus.  The exhibition is open to the public, from 10am-4.30pm Monday to Saturday, and entry is free. Further information is available here.