Yummy Yami: The Delicious and the Evil

Using a gruesome story as inspiration, French-born artist K-Narf pushes the limits of how sex is portrayed in art with his latest exhibit, Yummy Yami, on display at FB gallery in TriBeCa until May 8.

Yummy, an English term that means extremely pleasing to the sense of taste, and Yami, a Japanese term that describes a person or thing related to either darkness or evil, examines the concepts of food, flesh, sex, and cannibalism and makes the viewer think about his own relationship with those concepts.

Issei Sagawa is a Japanese man who cannibalized a young Dutch woman named Renée Hartevelt in his Paris apartment in 1981. When Sagawa attempted to dump the mutilated body into a lake, he was caught and later arrested by the French police. Sagawa was extradited to Japan where psychologists found him to be sane but “evil.” On August 12, 1986, Sagawa checked himself out of the mental institution and has been a free man ever since.

Sagawa is somewhat of a celebrity in Japan, where he is a frequent guest speaker and com­mentator. He has written restaurant reviews and appeared in a pornographic film as well as a TV commercial for, of all things, a Japanese restaurant chain.

Yummy Yami, FB gallery, K-Narf, NYC, cannibals
K-Narf's collage at FB gallery

One wall of the gallery is adorned with a collage resembling a map of a crime scene investigation, reconstructing the scene of the crime as well as where Sagawa attempted to dispose of Hartevelt’s remains. K-Narf printed out pictures of Sagawa and his victim that he found on the Internet, including shots of Sagawa after his arrest. The collage also has a map of Yokohama that is surrounded by photos of Sagawa’s television appearances and the life he leads today.

Yummy Yami, FB gallery, K-Narf, NYC, cannibals, Issei Sagawa
The Paris side of Issei Sagawa's story
Yummy Yami, FB gallery, K-Narf, NYC, cannibals, Issei Sagawa
The Japan side of Issei Sagawa's story

The gallery’s other wall holds K-Narf’s photographs of window dis­plays of pornographic movie theaters in Tokyo’s Shinjuku neighborhood and shots of meat from French butcher shops. With the juxtaposition of images of raw meat and softcore erotica, Yummy Yami hopes to evoke the same discomfort as Sagawa’s story.

Yummy Yami, FB gallery, K-Narf, NYC, cannibals, Issei Sagawa
The "yummy" side of K-Narf's exhibit?
Yummy Yami, FB gallery, K-Narf, NYC, cannibals, Issei Sagawa
What is meat? What is flesh?

Looking at the collage of the police photos of Sagawa’s bloodstained apartment, one is overcome with a feeling of disgust at the thought of cannibalism. How could someone possibly consider eating another human being? Yet any carnivore would feel pangs of hunger looking at the gorgeous pictures of various cuts of expensive meat. Is eating beef or pork okay because they come from animals and not humans? Side-by-side with posters from the Tokyo sex shops, the meat adds a wrinkle to the concept of consuming an animal’s flesh. The photographs have the added texture of K’Narf’s signature Scotch tape and masking tape.

Yummy Yami, FB gallery, K-Narf, NYC, cannibals, Issei Sagawa
FB gallery

K-Narf first discussed this story and his eventual photography exhibit with FB gallery owner Francois Baron a year ago. Baron opened FB gallery last June with a focus on putting Brazilian artists in the New York spotlight, but he was intrigued by the edginess of K-Narf’s idea.

Definitely edgy – and perhaps a bit shocking – Yummy Yami will have you thinking about the yummy and yami of sex and meat long after you leave the gallery.

K-Narf discusses his installation on this video from My Small Story.

FB gallery is located at 368 Broadway, #209 between White and Franklin Streets. For more information, visit FB gallery’s website.