Food. Jones reads Atkins' Old Food
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Scorched by senility and nostalgia, and wracked by all kinds of hunger, Ed Atkins’ Old Food lurches from allegory to listicle, from lyric to menu, fetching up a plummeting, idiomatic and crabbed tableau from the cannibalised remains of each form in turn. ‘Old Food’ is a hard Brexit, wadded with historicity, melancholy and a bravura kind of stupidity. | Presented by Cabinet Gallery and Fitzcarraldo Editions, ‘Jones reads Atkins Old Food’ is a live, performative reading of Ed Atkins’ book, ‘Old Food’, by the actor, Toby Jones. It was recorded on December 17, 2019 at Conway Hall in London, on the occassion of the publication of the book, ‘Old Food’, published by Fitzcarraldo Editions. 

ISBN 978-0-9928355-6-9 Photographs by Mark Blower. Cover illustration and design by Ed Atkins. © 2020 CABINET



Forthcoming 12” double vinyl

Total duration: 1 hour 52 minutes

Voice Toby Jones. 

Recorded London 17 September 2019

© Cabinet London

ISBN 978-0-9928355-6-9

Release date to be announced







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An extract of Old Food by Ed Atkins


It was ever easier to simply remove 

the breasts with an knife and ditch

the remainder, rather than commit to 

the arduous plucking, but they’d take 

your hand if the birds weren’t wholly 

bald and otherwise unscathed, tho, 

so. An informal lunch of pot-roast 

pheasant, swum over with loaded, 

swarthy prunes and a plausible 

Armagnac; dry mash, weak cabbage. 

Sirs got racy in the dining room. 

Urns of mulled wine kept wassailers 

blasted and tuneless till red bowls 

of bread pudding calmed with a 

thin Dairylea weep, surrendered 

sultanas and frangible moments of 

crystallised sugar roofing. We’d load 

long white clay pipes with thatches 

of a dark shag threaded with Mike’s 

lenient hash dispensed from a panel

of vinyl’d chipboard, cheap jigsawed 

heraldry, and a smouldering hemp 

cord, wearing flat, white, charmless 

masks made of I think hide. Ducked 

out through an open sash on the 

south side and sprinting out across 

the dewed lawn. We’d exit civility 

and re-enter the feral and humid 

and tidal-smoothed, crudded with 

red earth, blue woad, lucked toad 

backs and whole praffed adder peel, 

shrilling in a blackened pan of raw 

butter, sod fire puked acrid plumes 

attacked the bridge between the nasal 

bit and the throat. Then the smell of 

reptile beef and Hannah’d think of all

the kitchens in the world and describe 

them in exquisite detail. 


Fleurie? Drinking used to be as 

basic as upending an animal’s open 

neck into your mouth. We used to 

open an animal and simply tip what 

come slipping out into shot glasses, 

drinking until nothing more came 

out or what was coming out was cool 

and grey and made you down, washed 

away with a smaller animal’s openup 

or some oat milk. 


Custard tarts hot from the oven were 

welcomed by sundry cousins down 

for the weekends of Augusts. They 

were wiry, angry types in sacking 

and had broken skin. They would 

bring scarcely edible shite from their 

homeland and recipes to follow writ 

on curling velour in a language we 

couldn’t look at nor, then, follow. 

Foreign muck that howled in the 

pot, our cousins nodding, wounded 

fled to be sent back for seconds, 

gorgeous and us full of their dread, 

their astonishing solids, fibrous rent 

bum heat and panicked tongues to say 






death? I didn’t know. 


September, news reached us of their 

entire craven system just not. We’d 

mourn them traditionally: without

a second thought. There was feasts

of filled bread, though. Bananas 

weren’t available. Burgers were quite 

something, sat happy in a celeriac 

remoulade. The webbed cream guts 

of vast marrows would turn out to 

show succinct okay tomorrows and 

yield silver seeds that subsequently 

grewed more of them, twice as nice 

roasted with lemon thyme and garlic 

and more obscure, wild alliums, the 

tomorrows, blitzed to a silky soup

for poor camping in the graveyard 

under the shade of the willow when 

the graveyard had no dead in it yet, 

none of the interred being dead, 

simply the poor, sharing the soup and 

waiting to basically fill the graveyard 

up with themselves. The last would 

bury the second to last then clamber 

on top and sort of draw up the soil 

duvet over themselves, starting at the 

boots and eventually into the mouth, 

the eyes and the ears packed to never 

again hear dinner called clear and 

mellifluous on the still air from the 

beautiful houses beside the graveyard 

that were made of imported stone. 

There wasn’t a graveyard before that 

there was just a funny feeling. We did 

all we could, I suppose. We gripped 

them in our um prayers. We charged 

small glasses with a nondescript froth 

and raised them to them. We planted 

a series of pear trees somewhere, 

espaliered like Jesus was, south- 

facing in a walled garden crowded 

with wild roses in tea-stained, nuptial 

ivory, gaoled. Monastic silence, save 

for a distant peal and a hot cricket 

concert; the gorgeous flat spuff and 

tiny metallic report when folding soft 

metal caps off of thin glass bottles of 

scrumptious, souring perry Hannah 

made from the memorial fruit. 


Conversations were had between 

suppressed belches and quick dogtrot 

behind a big bay for hot long release. 

So the frying pan sizzle of piss on 

sun-dried forage would stir our 

appetite for whole sardines, wazzed 

with a little lime, skilletted almond 

whittles, and more perry for a bonus 

voof. We’d in fact eat adult sardines 

and we’d dronk a brilliant pale amber 

perry Hannah made from pears in 

an enchanted walled garden choked 

with an astonishing amount of wild 

roses in off-white, somewhere easterly 

& old. A miraculous hold-out owned 

by a family of big evil spiders who 

bound the mouldering brickwork as 

the strangler’s driving gloves they 

were like classic masonry wounds 

with polished black knees and The 

Shakes, debossed in an whole life 

of night and the town’s gone eyes 

gathered in hand-tied bouquets of 

cueballs and very rich 



Lots of unseen movement on the wall 

at nighttime. Sounds like the wet pop 

of a bakelite mandible or a porcelain 

Newton’s Cradle coming to rest. The 

sounds of nature 

were reminiscent; everything 


to the pit of your stomach. Horrors 

fairly trod the undergrowth audibly, 

scorned milk in the churn, froze 

grapes, turned fruit, ate kiddies, split 

mirrors. In the mornings maybe a 

dark wet scalp or an undone pink 

blouse snagged on pointy teeth. 


Perry and sardines used to be taken 

beside a heavily spidered wall abutted 

by tracts of barren zilch. Barren zilch 

were silted and jeweled in the gullies 

with a gravel of pink cochineal husks. 

Edible looking fish squirmed out their 

last, pouted we thought auguries? 

and meanwhile their eyes’d clouded, 

as with the hot skillet on the fire, 

surrounded by its juices, some butter 

and oil bubbling. Hissing noised as 

the fish’s skin got rusted panoply. 

Where we’d slashed at it with a long 

knife we could make out pale food 

peeking through. Wounds would 

widen with heat in time and in a field, 

in a ditch, we’d cringe beside that 

dying fish. Writhing very desperate, 

presumably not wanting to die it was 

looking at the sky. I put my ear to its 

strange mouth to listen to what it had 

to say but 


it said nothing. Not that there was no 

sound at all coming out of its mouth 

but that it didn’t say 


a thing. Whatever it had inside of it 

went unsaid 




A gloom descended for a bit and we 

just stared at the big 

cobalt lobsters 



paths while um opaline dragonflies 

darted above, ideally. We ate all the 

animals in any old order, without 

cooking them and then we looked at 

each other. 


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The book of Old Food by Ed Atkins is available from
Violent, emetic, immoderate, improper, impure – that’s to say it’s the real thing. Atkins’s prose, which may not be prose, adheres to Aragon’s maxim “Don't think – write.”
– Jonathan Meades
If “Chocolate coins seemed doubly cryptic with the collapse of banks...” as Ed Atkins writes towards the end of this almost unbearable but compelling work, then dystopia and climate catastrophe are in our mouths and bodies: they pour through cataracts of names of herbs and meats and slime, of commonplace gestures in strange locations, they disrupt spelling and produce unnatural words and the suspension of proper grammar. Atkins’ fiercely flowing anti-poetry takes up the disruption of unthinking indulgence at a point near to where Theodor Adorno left off, moralia now definitively below the minima we need to carry on – other than in the turbulence of the text.
– Adrian Rifkin, author of Communards
Like a McDonald’s hamburger or a cockroach or the Global Seed Vault, Old Food perseveres beyond mortal reason and enters a Beckettian afterwards. We cannot know the reason for all those tears, and it scarcely matters.
– Vivian Rycroft 


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Toby Jones is a BAFTA Award Winning British actor renowned for his roles both on screen and on stage. Recent screen performances include the BBC’s in Don’t Forget The Driver, a series he co-wrote with Tim Crouch and Netflix’s The Dark Crystal: Age of Resistance. Upcoming film credits for 2020 include; Louis Wain, Toby will star alongside Benedict Cumberbatch and Claire Foy, The Last Thing He Wanted, written and directed for Netflix by Oscar nominated Dee Rees and as Reverend Chasuble in an animated adaptation of Oscar Wilde’s The Canterville Ghost.

Ed Atkins is an artist who makes all kinds of convolutions of self-portraiture. He writes uncomfortably intimate, debunked prophesies; paints travesties; and makes realistic computer generated videos that often feature figures that resemble the artist in the throes of unaccountable psychical crises. Atkins’ artificial realism, whether written or animated, pastiches romanticism to get rendered down to a sentimental blubber – all the better to model those bleak feelings often so inexpressible in real life. In recent years he has presented solo shows at Kunsthaus Bregenz, Martin-Gropius-Bau in Berlin, Castello di Rivoli in Turin, the Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, and Serpentine Gallery in London, among others. His artwork is the subject of several monographs, and his writing has appeared in October, Texte zur Kunst, frieze, The White Review, Hi Zero and EROS Journal. A Primer for Cadavers, his first collection, was published by Fitzcarraldo Editions in 2016. Ed Atkins is represented by the Cabinet Gallery in London.

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