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Baby Cake

Bobby Baker sculpture

Ovalhouse, London

Dressed in an old ballgown of her mother’s, a maid’s cap, and elaborate make up, Bobby Baker carved up a life-size baby made from cake presented upon a meat platter. Despite being presented at Ovalhouse, which had a reputation for showcasing radical art, people expressed horror and shock at the act, which Baker herself had perceived as an appropriate and interesting image associated with the festival of Christmas.

Birthday Tea Party

Bobby Baker sculpture

Artist’s sitting room, Anerley, London

In an attempt to strike a balance between Baseball Boot Cake (1972) not being eaten and Cake Christmas Dinner (1972) being overwhelmed by drunken students, Bobby Baker hosted a tea party to display a selection of cakes, meringues and jellies that included a seated nude woman as its centrepiece. Not wanting to ‘spoil’ the display guests refrained from taking part, highlighting the challenges of overcoming behavioural codes and habits.

Cake Christmas Dinner

Bobby Baker sculpture

St Martin’s School of Art, London

An entire life-size Christmas dinner made from cake including turkey, leg of ham, and all the trimmings. Made for the art school’s Christmas party, the ‘spread’ was soon demolished by guests in a setting that Bobby Baker hoped would overcome the problem of wasting food.

Sweet and Sour

Bobby Baker performance

2 April 1974
St Martin’s School of Art, London

Framed as a commentary on the pros and cons of sentimentality, Sweet and Sour was Bobby Baker’s earliest use of the cookery demonstration format as a framework for a performance. It began with 50 boxed marzipan roses that were sent out to people as invitations. At the performance proper, Baker worked with a mobile kitchen to create sweet and sour pork balls and crystallised roses, which she served to her audience with glasses of rosé to a soundtrack that included a voiceover of poet George R Sim’s ‘Billy’s Dead and Gone to Glory’.

To Bring a Sheep to Consciousness We Must Eat It Therefore to Bring Virginia Woolf to Consciousness We Must Eat Her

Bobby Baker sculpture and performance

New Contemporaries, Camden Arts Centre, London

Taking its cue from a Sufi proverb and made in tribute to Virginia Woolf, this edible artwork took the form of a seated life-size figure assembled from 1080 buns decorated with marzipan. It was installed for the opening of the exhibition New Contemporaries, where Bobby Baker served up slices to visitors. As the buns were dismantled it gradually revealed bookshelves and ornaments.

Performance Art Collective Christmas Party

Bobby Baker sculpture

ICA, London

For this work Bobby Baker decorated a homemade Christmas tree at the ICA with hot miniature Christmas puddings. It was created on the occasion of the Performance Art Collective’s Christmas party whose guests were encouraged to help themselves to a ‘bauble’. The Performance Art Collective was headed by the film director and screenwriter Sally Potter and hosted by the late Ted Little, who was Director of the ICA between 1974 and 1977. Members included Rose English, Anne Bean, Judith H. Katz, and Jacky Lansley.

An Edible Family in a Mobile Home

Bobby Baker installation

13 Conder Street, Stepney, London

For this project, Bobby Baker transformed the Acme Housing Association prefab that she was living in into a week-long sculptural installation that housed an edible family of five: mother, father, teenage daughter, son, and baby. 

Assembled from cake and adorned with icing, biscuits and other baked goods, the family members could be encountered in rooms throughout the house: the baby asleep in her cot, the son in the bath, the teenage daughter listening to the radio in her parents’ bedroom, the father slumped in an armchair in front of the television. The mother was the only mobile member of the family who moved throughout the house but was more often found in the kitchen, where visitors could enjoy a cup of tea from her head, or other soft drinks, and have fresh snacks from compartments in her abdomen. Against a backdrop of walls and surfaces covered in newsprint and magazines, and decorated with icing sugar, Baker performed as hostess. She offered food and encouraged visitors to consume, and thereby dismantle, the family.   

Bobby Baker: ‘For the first time I decided to dispense with the problem of deciding what to wear…I would always adopt a more neutral garb, in the form of a woman’s overall. I liked the fact that it was neutral and yet deeply complex in the ways in which it could be read. Also, it was my conscious female riposte to Joseph Beuys’ macho fishing waistcoat and hat.’ 

Funded by Arts Council England

Roving Diagnostic Unit

Daily Life Ltd. project

25 July 2015
Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park, London

13 October 2016
William Morris Gallery, London

In their role as custodians of our heritage and culture, museums and galleries categorise, define, and label their contents. Roving Diagnostic Unit critiqued modern psychiatric diagnosis, which seeks to do the same things with ‘patients’; people experiencing mental distress. In doing so, the project exposed some of the absurdities of the mental health system, while highlighting the strengths and talents of people who have been 'diagnosed'. 

Led by ‘Dr Bobby’ (Bobby Baker), the Roving Diagnostic Unit had two iterations. The first was at Tower Hamlets Cemetary Park commissioned for Shuffle Festival in 2015. The second was a year later, at William Morris Gallery and park. For both, Baker invited contributions from other artists and fellow Experts by Experience of the mental health system.

For Shuffle Festival, participants were invited by Baker to consider the predicaments of the everyday objects in the park – did the litter-bin suffer hoarding symptoms? Perhaps the pond was delusional? The bench by the path seemed uneasy: social anxiety disorder? The event featured contributions by writer-performer-artist sean burn, artist Simon Raven, and singer-songwriter Dylan Tighe.

At the William Morris Gallery, pertinent questions were again asked in order to ‘diagnose’ the Gallery and its surrounding park, with artists commissioned to create participatory adventures for the public. Questions asked included, does the gift shop display hoarding symptoms? Perhaps the textile collection has family problems: generalised anxiety disorders? Are the toilets experiencing grandiose delusions? The artists involved alongside Baker were Rhiannon Armstrong, Sara Haq, Marie Louise Plum, Kate Rolison, Selina Thompson, whatsthebigmistry; singer-songwriter Dylan Tighe; and writer-performer-artist sean burn. 

By exploring the psychiatric diagnostic framework through an artistic and witty lens, Roving Diagnostic Framework questioned the assumption that our state of mind can be defined by an ‘expert’ and that people can be conveniently labelled as disordered. 

The Roving Diagnostic Unit at the William Morris Gallery was supported by Wellcome, Paul Hamlyn Foundation, and London Borough of Waltham Forest.

Letting in the Light

Daily Life Ltd. project

21 January – 23 March 2016
The Grove, Stratford High Street, London

Referencing Groucho Marx’s words ‘Blessed are the cracked, for they shall let in the light.’, Letting in the Light showcased the work of 35 artists with personal experience of mental distress from across the UK. The works were selected by a panel including Bobby Baker, artist Sara Haq and curators from Bethlem Gallery and Outside In, Pallant House. Displayed on freestanding lightboxes throughout the dark winter months, the works illuminated Stratford High Street in east London and encouraged people to re-consider their preconceptions about mental health.

The exhibition included artworks by Anna Berry, Anthony Woods-McLean, Chris Gray, Daniel Reagan, Dolly Sen, George Harding, Graeme Newton, Greenwoodflett, Greg Bromley, Helen Parker, Jackie Bennet, Jan Arden, Jane McCormick, Jasmine Surreal, John Jennings, Julia M Oak, Kate Rolison, Kim Feld, Kristina Veasey, Lea Cummings, Lesley Greening Lassoff, Liz Atkin, Manuela Hubner, Martin Phillimore, Nuala Hamilton, Phil Baird, Sara Rivers, Stephanie Bates, Sue Morgan, Sue Trickey, Terence Wilde, Tess Springhall, Tilley Milburn, Yvonne Mary Parker

The Expert View

Daily Life Ltd. project

7 & 8 May 2015
Various venues

The Expert View was a two-day micro-festival held across various sites in east London to explore ‘expertise’ in arts and mental health, from the perspectives of all involved. It was organised in partnership with Bromley By Bow Centre and Friends of East End Loonies (F.E.E.L). 

The festival included a performance double bill with Selina Thompson and Laura Jane Dean at Arts 2, Queen Mary University London, and a symposium at the Bromley By Bow Centre, hosted by Bobby Baker. The symposium investigated ‘expertise’, the value of lived experience, and ways of evaluating collaborative work. Contributions came from leading academics, artists and practitioners working at the cutting edge of arts and mental health practice. These included Jacqui Dillon, Hearing Voices Network; Dr Caoimhe McAvinchey, Queen Mary University London; Marc Steene, Outside In; Beth Elliott, Bethlem Gallery; Dr Dave Harper, University of East London; and Lucy Wells, Bromley by Bow Centre. Performances and interventions took place throughout the day by artists Simon Raven and Dolly Sen. The festival concluded with the Cure All Cabaret; an evening of live music, performance and spoken word at Kingsley Hall, hosted by Baker and singer-songwriter Dylan Tighe with contributions from F.E.E.L poets and friends.

The Expert View Lightbox Exhibition

Daily Life Ltd. project

24 October – 16 December 2014
Dalston Square and CLR James Library, London

Curated by Bobby Baker and Alice Carey, this lightbox exhibition showcased a selection of drawings made by 44 people with lived experiences of the mental health system. Some were made by people with personal experience of mental distress, while others were made by professionals working in mental health and related services. Some people identified with both of those perspectives. The drawings were made over a summer-long series of workshops. These were led by Jake Spicer of Draw, Brighton, at various venues across east London. They took Baker’s Diary Drawings as a starting point. 

Spicer’s workshops built on the success of All Very Well. A video made by Sarah Pickthall, Danny Weinstein and Kezia Martin documented the exhibition and how it was evaluated. This can be seen here. A detailed case study on the project can be found on the microsite Artful Measures

The exhibition included artworks by Andrew Graham, Anis Ali, Ann Marie McShane, Anthony Lawson, Aparna Sanyal, Arc-en-ciel, Ayan Abdisamed, Ayesha Yousuf, Benjamin Gooch, Berdo, Carol Johnston, Claire Brett (Peanuts), Dawn Clarke, Edmund Davie, Elizabeth Johnston Francesca Pisanu, Heather Beveridge, Jacqui Dillon, Jessica Scott, John Jennings, John Joseph Sheehy, Johura Bibi (aka Juicy Mamma J), Kate Lovell, Kate Rolison, Lisanne Davie, Louise Alexander, M, Magda Florek, Marion, Michelle Kelly, Mumtas Ahmed, Ranjana Kanekal, Sana Marchent, Sara Rivers, Sharon Hippolyte, Sharon Shokar, Siobbhan Jones, Sofie, Sophie Adams, Tina Bueno, Valerie Lewis, Yvonne Coughlan, Zoe Catherine Kendall, Zoe Lambe.

Supported by Wellcome and Big Lottery Awards for All

Roxy & Rudi Roadshow

Daily Life Ltd. project

11 August 2013

St Clements Social Club at St Clements Hospital, London as part of Shuffle Festival’s Day of the Mind

Roxy & Rudi Roadshow was a pop-up wellbeing research trial run by Dr Bobby (Bobby Baker) and a team of anarchic ‘clinical’ researchers. Participants were invited to go through five steps, to assess their ‘wellbeing’. 

Starting at the reception desk they were greeted by a receptionist who booked appointments and explained the intentions of the project. Next, they met Dr Bobby and her research assistant who led them through a ‘Cat Dog Personality Type Profiling’ painting exercise, identifying whether they were a ‘Cat Person’, ‘Dog Person’ or ‘AN Other’, before moving onto the Diagnostic Assessment Unit where they were diagnosed and asked questions using the Warwick Scale – a scale of 14 positively worded items for assessing a population’s mental wellbeing. A ‘research analyst’ then worked with participants to map their diagnosis onto a hand-drawn map of the local area before the Discharge Planning Unit issued them with an official Daily Life Ltd. stamped discharge chit and offered them a choice of a Roxy Cat or Rudi Dog biscuit, baked by Dr Bobby.

The Roxy and Rudi Roadshow formed part of The Daily Life Project – a 3-year exploration of Newham, Hackney and Tower Hamlets, on the ground and online, to meet individuals from all walks of life who have personal experience of mental health issues. The Daily Life Project included the presentation and co-creation of artworks, innovative participatory arts, and mental health research.