Alicia Rios is a food artist internationally renowned for her surreal and provocative edible food art events in cities throughout the world. After spending many years as a psychology lecturer at Madrid’s Complutense University, she left academia to open her own restaurant and pursue her passion for food. She later went on to specialise in olive oil, becoming a professional taster and olive expert. Alicia’s first performances were born out of her regular attendance of the annual Oxford Symposium on Food and Cooking and in 1995 she co-founded the artistic working group Ali&Cia (Ali&Co. in Spanish) with the architect Bárbara Ortiz. Individually and as part of Ali&Cia she has produced an extensive range of sensory concerts and phagia rituals where reality is reinterpreted through food and devoured collectively.
Along with Ali&Cia she has been employing food to reinterpret our surroundings in a fantastical semiotic game of illusion and visual pun. Ali&Cia's representations are not the gingerbread houses or theme birthday cakes you might imagine, highly decorative pieces where the game is only a surface conceit. More important to them than verisimilitude are the references and symbolism of the ingredients and elaborated dishes themselves, which form part of a larger proposal.
Ali&Cia has created edible hats, logos, green houses, libraries and even whole cities and islands. Some have been created with the help of collaborators, others, such as Eating the City, Melbourne, involved large-scale community participation. They are often asked to create works to celebrate inaugurations or anniversaries, events where one normally finds food and there is a strong symbolic and narrative content. What Ali&Cia does is bring the two together in a way that is meaningful to the participating community or association, creating a specific ritual/performance that caters to their identity and desires.
The presentation of the work to the public is often a highly theatrical affair, perhaps emphasising the roles of collaborators or reflecting the theme. The aim is always to create a special atmosphere in which the public approach the work with open eyes and curiosity, their experience is central. The works are not only participatory in their creation and interpretation but in that they are physically assimilated by the public, transgressing the typical division between work and spectator. They invite us to reconsider our surroundings and our relationship to them, in addition to our relationship to food.
Like an amoeba, Ali&Cia expands, contracts, adapts, absorbs and reflects in response to the circumstances of each work’s context. In addition to co-founders Alicia Rios and Barbara Ortiz, who have collaborated on all projects to date, also involved currently are Simon Cohen, researcher and production assistant and scriptwriter and researcher Melissa Suárez del Real. Past collaborators have included Marcos Velasco, Cristina Guijarro, Manuel González de Diego, Diego Vega, Miguel Eraso and Ana Riazanova among many, many others.