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"Ceci n'est pas un conte"

In 2018 the UK government introduced a tax on soft drinks, commonly referred to as the 'Sugar Tax', whereby drinks with more than 8g of sugar per 100ml face a surcharge equivalent to 24p per litre. Those containing 5-8g of sugar per 100ml face a slightly lower rate, of 18p per litre. By introducing this “sin tax”, sugar is now officially recognised as a drug that can both intoxicate us and infuse us with energy. It has no short term side effects but evidence suggests that it can become addictive. The question is, whether sugar should be treated in a similar fashion to substances such as alcohol and tobacco?

Bad teeth, obesity and heart disease have all been linked to excess sugar, a poor diet and the inability to afford "healthy" food. However, in Elizabethan times, black teeth were seen as a symbol of wealth and the ability to afford sugar and it was the poor who retained their white teeth. By the beginning of the nineteenth century the poor were selling their healthy teeth and even the dead were robbed of theirs in order to replace the rotten teeth of those with the resources to pay.

In this collection we find an array of sugar paraphernalia, alongside similar objects that have a connection to alcohol, tobacco, medicinal or illegal drugs.

On the adjoining wall, are two displays of index cards, each card containing a statement related to an object withing the display. The statement on each statement is classified and colour coded according to its subject matter: how it relates to sugar or other "drugs"; the historical period and demographic to whom it applies; any relationship between the object and forms of control; and the use of the object, a taxonomy constructed purely on the whim of the collector.

What becomes apparent as we study the two arrangements of cards more closely, is that each set contains the same statements. However by arranging them in different patterns according to their colour codes, different stories can be constructed. It is true that both polio vaccine and LSD are taken on sugar cubes, but also that Tate and Lyle launched Mr Cube in response to the threatened nationalisation of the sugar industry and that in cafes and bars, cubes are wrapped in paper which is used for advertising purposes. We construct the information in different ways according to personal remincences and experiences, each one of us arriving at our own personal story.

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