The Food Groups
“The Food Groups” (2011–present) is an ongoing series in which the Disorientals form solidarities with five racialized food trade industry characters. The installations and performances in this series focus on race and labor in American food production and promotion. In solidarity with these historical characters, the Disorientals work to erase distinctions between the depersonalized production and personalized promotion of industrial food.
A Note on Woke-Washing:
In the spring of 2020, as we continued our work on “The Food Groups” series, the Quaker Oats Company removed the image of Aunt Jemima from its packaging as well as her name from its product line, and Land O’Lakes removed the image of the Indian Maiden from its packaging. We embrace the elimination of racist imagery from circulation. However, we view these gestures as attempts to address deep-seated and complex issues literally only on the surface.
From the perspective of "The Food Groups," the removal of an image does not solve the problem of fundamentally exploitative labor practices under racial capitalism, which this series addresses. We began “The Food Groups" series in 2011 with the realization that there were no Asian food industry trade characters despite the extreme racialization of food industry trade characters as a genre. Ironically, the erasure of these characters from packaging not only obscures the real labor of women of color working in the food industry (including Black women like Green, Robinson, and Moore Hall, who were hired to work as “Aunt Jemima”). More profoundly, it further enters them into the same category of invisibility that Asians and Asian Americans already occupy.