Sarah Lucas

Sausage Film


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Not on display

Sarah Lucas born 1962
Video, monitor, colour and sound (mono)
Presented anonymously 1997


Sausage Film is Lucas's only video work to date and comprises two parts which document the artist eating first a sausage and then a banana. Sitting at a table outdoors in a bare back yard she receives each on a plate. She awkwardly peels off their skins with a knife and fork and after carefully slicing each phallic-looking item - the banana is sliced in half lengthways first before being cut up into smaller pieces - she chews and swallows. Shot from a single static view-point, the video's simply edited format allies with Lucas's deadpan expression (apart from her nervous giggles as she makes eye contact with the shirtless man who hands her each plate of food) and resolutely methodical approach to her meal. The viewer witnesses, in real time, the lengthy processes of cutting, chewing and swallowing, from which Lucas's approach of serious concentration completely eradicates the possibility for any eroticism in the popular sexual connotations around bananas and sausages. This video is an early example of what became the artist's signature tactic: the subversion of common sexual innuendo through its representation in literal physical form, allied with the use of her sexually ambiguous appearance.

Lucas had always hated being photographed because she felt she looked too masculine, until a now-famous photograph (taken by her then boyfriend) of her eating a banana in 1990 accidentally changed her perception of her appearance. 'I suddenly could see the strength of the masculinity about it - the usefulness of it to the subject struck me at that point, and since then I've used that' (Lucas quoted in Barber, p.16). This photograph, titled Eating a Banana, marks the beginning of a series of confrontational photographic self-portraits made throughout the 1990s which constitutes an important part of Lucas' work. They range in tone from the nonchalance of Fighting Fire with Fire (1995), in which the artist's macho deadpan pose, with a cigarette drooping from her mouth, is belied by her obvious female gender, to the joking, innuendo-ridden Summer (1998), in which she grimaces as her face is splashed by frothing beer. These images present a female artist of masculine appearance as an object for male desire.

Further reading:
Lynn Barber, 'Drag Queen', Observer Magazine, London, 30 January 2000, pp.10-16
Art from the UK, exhibition catalogue, Sammlung Goetz, Munich, 1997, pp.130-6
Sarah Lucas, exhibition catalogue, Museum Boymans-van Beuningen, Rotterdam 1996

Elizabeth Manchester
August 2000

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Display caption

Lucas laboriously skins, slices and eats a sausage and a banana, which are handed to her by the artist Gary Hume. The phallic connotations become painfully obvious. Sausage Film epitomises Lucas’s wry, confrontational style. One of her earliest photographic self-portraits, Eating a Banana, made in the same year, shows the artist in typically defiant mood, exuding a tough, streetwise demeanour that cleverly undermines what might otherwise be viewed as a crudely sexist pose. As Lucas has commented, ‘With only minor adjustments, a provocative image can become confrontational, converted from an offer of sexual service into a castration image’.

Gallery label, August 2004

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