On the Table

Semiotics of Food

21 June - 20 September 2024 /
Nouvel Building, Library and Documentation Centre, Space D

Free ticket

Faustí Llucià, photographed by José Pérez Ocaña, and friends for the Sunday supplement of El periódico, 1982. © Faustí Llucià Figueras, VEGAP, Madrid, 2024
Faustí Llucià, photographed by José Pérez Ocaña, and friends for the Sunday supplement of El periódico, 1982. © Faustí Llucià Figueras, VEGAP, Madrid, 2024

Food sets a rhythm, a time. It passes through different cycles — the germination of a seed, fermentation, preparations for a celebratory dish — before we consume it. Yet in recent decades, these cycles have been affected by consumerist immediacy, a logic that imposes an acceleration of the food system and, therefore, puts financial gain above the well-being of all forms of life. The result is a production blueprint that prioritises exploitation of the land and makes living beings subordinate to the technological development of the capitalist system, with scant consideration for the equal distribution of that which is produced or its environmental impact.

The point of departure of On the Table. Semiotics of Food is Martha Rosler’s video performance Semiotics of the Kitchen (1975), which is part of the Museo Reina Sofía Collection. In the work, the artist presents, in alphabetical order and as a semiotic exercise, a series of objects pertaining to this space in the home to denounce the role socially assigned to women in the domestic sphere.

Moreover, the exhibition turns attention towards an essential aspect of the kitchen but one which is not discernible in Rosler’s video performance: food. Following her narrative structure, the show presents a selection of visual and textural materials, for instance photographs, books, poems, postcards, cookbooks and objects, which are organised in an alphabetical glossary for the purposes of delving deeper into our complex relationship with food. The semiotic exercise used in the words that make up the glossary reveal the different ways in which food is linked to history, politics, art and culture.

On the Table. Semiotics of Food puts forward a critical reading of capitalist cycles to expose the tensions that revolve around food and to advocate a greater eco-social awareness of its production, distribution and consumption. Equally, it throws into relief its influence on human ties, its emotional dimension and its capacity to bring people together, to evoke memories and create stories around them.

Exhibition´s details

Organized by: 

Exhibition carried out by the student group from the Curatorship strand of the MA in Contemporary Art History and Visual Culture, organised jointly by the Autonomous University of Madrid, the Complutense University of Madrid and the Museo Reina Sofía


Monday to Friday, from 9am to 9pm


Alya Abderrazek, Martina Avilés, Eduardo Caballero, Valeria Caballero, Paula Estany, Laura García, Alba López-Davalillo, Aroa Martínez, Adriana Matías, Elisenda Olmedo, Roy Postigo, Yuvinka Ribera and Gerard Zamora


Exhibitions, Library and Documentation Centre


To all fellow students on the MA for their support and the work shared throughout this process. To our tutor, Diana Angoso, for her support, along with the MA coordinators Noemí de Haro, Alicia Fuentes and Lidia Merás. To the entire team of the Museo Reina Sofía Library and Documentation Centre, with a special mention to Isabel Bordes, Almudena Gómez and Alberto Medina. To the Study Centre and its coordinator Margarita Rodríguez. To the Museo Reina Sofía’s Editorial Activities and Public Activities Departments. To Archivo Lafuente, Campo Adentro-Inland, Paisanaje, Cristina Arribas and the artists and authors for their permission to display the works and publications.

Additional material:

Exhibition Information Sheet: On the table. Semiotics of Food

Free ticket