You've heard of snack stadiums, the ultimate tribute to football fandom made from guacamole, chips and crudités? Yes? No? Either way, prepare to be dazzled, because acclaimed London artist Carl Warner has been building what could be the most ornate snack stadium of all time. The work was commissioned by Nabisco, in part to launch the new Wheat Thins Toasted Pita Oven Baked Crackers, and the photos and making-of video are timed for the Super Bowl of Snacking (also known as simply the Super Bowl).
Warner, who works as both a fine artist using food as his medium and as an artist who creates photos and videos of his colorful landscapes and portraits for ad campaigns, calls this particular presentation a dipscape — which makes sense, given that the tableau features approximately 2015 Wheat Thins toasted chips and the new pita chips (available as original and garlic herb) as well as 30 lbs of guacamole, tubs of cream cheese and many more dippable ingredients.
So can food also serve as art? Warner, whose career took off after a 2008 profile of his work in London's Sunday Times (and which can be seen in full here), says it's a natural fit. "Be it a Thai floating market to the Swiss Alps made out of cheese, it never ceases to amaze me how food and the organic nature of food and the texture can imitate the larger aspects of the natural world," he says in an interview with Food Republic. Check out behind-the-scenes images below, then scroll down for a lengthier chat with Warner about the stadium, food as art and whether or not he snacks as he works.
You're in the middle of constructing the stadium as we speak. How does it look?
Yeah, well, we’ve built the Super Bowl stadium out of Wheat Thins crackers, which we’ve stocked using rectangular ones and triangular ones. It’s a sort of two-tiered stadium, with a guacamole dip in the center of the stadium. And we’ve got the American flag, which is in the middle of the pitch. And we’ve built everything out of food. So the crowd that are sitting in the seats that are made out of the crackers, are all various ingredients like baby cherry tomatoes, olives, pieces of cheese, mushrooms, blackberries, raspberries, strawberries — so we’ve got a whole colorful crowd of real ingredients sitting in the cracker stalls of the stadium, and it looks absolutely beautiful. It’s been a long day to get to this point, because it’s been a lot of building and a lot of meticulous work. But we’ve got an amazing, grand-looking stadium with immense detail and color and texture throughout.
Are you doing this in London?
Yes it’s in London in our studio.
What’s your studio like? Is it just set up for photos basically and you have a table, where you do these landscapes?
It’s an underground studio, where we shoot TV commercials and stills work. I’m obviously doing stills work here at the moment. It’s a big sort of closed studio, which has all the equipment and lights and everything here, and at the moment we’re working on a table that’s about eight foot by four foot. And so the stadium itself is probably about six foot by four foot. So it’s a big model with a ton of ingredients and crackers in there, which has taken about a week and a half to build.
You've been working on projects for a good half-decade that use food as the main media in your art. What still continues to excite you about working with food as an artistic medium?
Well I think it’s the never-ending possibilities. I tend to do a lot of landscapes, and I do portraits and interiors as well with food. I use food in the way that a painter uses paint. Food is my palette. It’s inspiration for a lot of the pictures, which sometimes come from specific ingredients or other times come from particular locations that I’ve seen that I want to recreate. I never really lose excitement about it. Be it from a Thai floating market to the Swiss Alps made out of cheese, it still never ceases to amaze me how food and the organic nature of food and the texture can actually imitate the larger aspects of the natural world. The fact that a broccoli looks like a tree – is obviously a very simple and obvious comparison, but I just built a waterfall last week built out of ciabatta bread. And we poured sauce out of it in slow motion and it just looks like a waterfall. It looks real. I defy people to look at it and not think it was a real waterfall. So, it is – food is incredibly engaging. Everybody loves food, everyone has a relationship with food in a certain way and what I’m doing is building on the visual aesthetic relationship we have, in a way that makes people look at food in a different way.
Does working like this affect you, like if you go out to dinner and somebody puts a plate of food in front of you, does your imagination automatically go to what else that could be?
No, I have to say no. I think when I’m going out to dinner, I tend to switch off my artistic head and switch on my taste buds, because when you enjoy food, eating food, it’s a very different hat for me. In terms of using it as a visual means, as a mechanism to create scenes. So I tend to switch off – although saying that, one of the earlier pictures I did which was a smoked salmon sea, actually came about from seeing some smoked salmon on a plate at a restaurant and I saw the sunlight catch it in such a way that it set off the texture. And I could see the texture was very similar to that of the sea, at sunset. So in that particular situation which was very early on, yeah, spotting it on the plate and realizing that I could actually possibly make a seascape out of smoked salmon, was quite an exciting moment really.
What about the challenge of not eating as you’re going along? Do you have any rules about when you’re working with food.
Well, we have – we’ve been eating. I’ve been eating the Wheat Thins, and we’ve got some wonderful tomatoes and things like that, so occasionally you pop one into your mouth. But I don’t know, your work hat’s on and you’re using the food as a constructive – it’s like Legos; I’m using food like Legos. You’re building. You tend to be more focused on what it is you’re making and creating.
See more on Snack Stadiums from Food Republic: