Cake Man II by Yinka Shonibare

This is the very first piece you would see as you walk into the exhibition space at the Royal Academy – Summer Exhibition 2014. It certainly sets the tone for the remainder of what the viewer is about to see: thought-provoking art. Shonibare’s piece has certainly been getting a lot of attention, and for good reason. Cake Man II is a very unusual looking sculpture made of a variety of found objects as well as crafted pieces. The combination and very deliberate layout of the piece as a whole from the life-sized mannequin with a globe/stock market report as a head to the tower of ‘badly’ balanced cakes certainly gives the viewer a great deal to think about.

Clearly, this piece is filled with a slew of symbolic meaning making systems as the mannequin’s head is the global stock market showing a blatant parallel with what is on everyone’s mind today, so to speak: Money! Money talks, right? And in times of crashing markets and the average person only just making ends meet (if he’s lucky) of course that’s what people are thinking about! But it isn’t just that. It’s the consumerist mind that is pushing towards the tipping point and the root of many an issue. The fabrics used to dress the figure are a signature trend of the artist. Not only does their use create an immediate correlation between the piece and the artist but so to does the quality of the fabrics chosen; correlateing between the piece and the consumerist issue.

The cakes themselves; each unique in colour, appearance and size, I think, show what a consumerist’s mind seems to see as the accumulation of what matters in life. In other words: the accumulation of stuff! It is not enough to have one decadent cake but many. When in reality, in many cases, one is more than enough to begin with. Greed and lust for green paper and what it can bring has become somewhat of an epidemic! The description provided about the piece takes this theory one step further: “Decadence relies on the labour of others and suggests that there is a point at which this financial model is no longer sustainable – a tipping point.” What I found even more interesting was where this piece was situated in that given moment as it portrayed such heavy messages about consumerism; and that is just off Piccadilly and Regent Street, where the display of consumerist culture is at its finest!

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