BIG SAUSAGE PIZZA
Big Sausage Pizza, 2008
16 x 16 x 21 in
40.6 x 40.6 x 53.3 cm
Artist Proof Edition with foundry mark stamped on bottom
Have you ever had immortal pizza? Now you can.
The piece was born in 2007, just as the social internet was beginning to explode out of the digital back rooms and onto the world stage under the watchful eyes of Myspace, Facebook, YouTube, Reddit, Twitter, Tumblr, and other popular platforms. But Big Sausage Pizza was conceived well before that, in the Wild West days of the internet when few truly public forums existed and media of every kind was most commonly shared via email.
In those days one never knew what to expect from a link or an attachment and each click had equal odds of either brightening your day with a dancing baby or posing a risk to your computer, your dignity, or your relationships... and that was half the fun. Every recipient of these images, videos, or audio files suddenly had the means not only to pass them along to as many people as they pleased, but to change and individualize them before sending them on. In this way, the media very quickly mutated and were distributed around the globe. In other words, they became true memes.
Pizza has evolved in much the same way. Like the internet, it started as an artifact of a specific culture, but today both are so common throughout the world that most of us can barely remember a time when they were special and exotic. Just as the internet simply IS, pizza also simply IS. We used to make pizza at home, or at least buy it in a place where they were handmade and offered a limited list of toppings. Today, the meme that is pizza is brought to our tables by an almost entirely mechanized process, and it's so wildly mutated that each individual has the ability to create a new twist on the old design, and all from the comfort of our screens.
XVALA has combined these two seemingly disparate concepts into one: Big Sausage Pizza. Made from high-chromium steel, the piece shines like a naïve, 20th century concept of the future. But because it's cast on a real pizza, the internal surface is rough and irregular and its reflections are unintelligible bits of light. Just as technology subverted traditional social interactions, and as the modern pizza industry has subverted its own origins, XVALA subverts our expectations. He offers a surprise for our jaded minds: a pizza that — like the internet — reflects our own faces back to us, but only after they've been distorted by the very medium that they seek to view.
When asked about his inspirations for Big Sausage Pizza, the artist points first to his early experiences with technology. His first office was in an old computer room from the 1970s. It was special because it was the only air-conditioned room in its building, a circumstance not intended for human comfort but as necessary cooling for the room-sized computers of the day. His job revolved around architecture and construction, and during this period the industry was transitioning from fully hand-drawn blueprints to computer-assisted drafting. "I was seeing how computers not only needed their own spaces and environments, but were also becoming part of the creative world," XVALA explains. "It was like something out of TRON: We created digital technology, but now digital technology is turning around and designing our world." These realizations led him to his own physical realization of ideas from science fiction.
He goes on to describe how this all came together in the "cultural tsunami" that washed over the world in the early 2000s: the launch and explosion of social networking sites like Friendster, Myspace, Facebook, Stickam, YouTube, Reddit, Twitter, and Tumblr, along with their inherent problems; the meteoric rise and tragic fall of Britney Spears and other celebrities; the launch of Google Street View and other services that raised serious concerns for the privacy of its subjects; the advent of fully realistic computer-generated imagery and motion capture in films (as well as the availability of software for amateur enthusiasts to create CGI); and much more. In short, the world was a very different place in 2007 from the world we had known before. "I wanted to show how Americana had been subverted by technology, how something we wanted in our homes had come with a 'surprise inside', a kind of Pandora's box for the 21st century."
In Big Sausage Pizza, XVALA presents a vision of modern digital delivery of media and information as a reflection of the world that is "not a true representation of anything real". He found that his own personal information was freely available online via a quick Google search despite the fact that he had never purposely put it there. He soon realized that the same was true for celebrities like Britney Spears, whose life was so prevalent online that it became not just one but a whole list of memes, and virtually every other person who has ever used the internet.
Finally, the artist also took inspiration from the work of Jeff Koons. All of Koons' most famous works — including the record-setting Rabbit — are cast in stainless steel, a hard-working, everyday material that gives a false impression of opulence due to its enduring shine. At the same time, it takes a step in the opposite direction from Koons' work, incorporating a real-world object and its inherent textures rather than presenting a stylized, perfected version of it. All of this, then, provides multiple levels of surprise beneath the initial, outward appearance.