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Ramen reason: the art of the cup noodle

16 April 2021

Introducing Rakewell, Apollo’s wandering eye on the art world. Look out for regular posts taking a rakish perspective on art and museum stories.

The instant noodle, as the official history of the Japanese company Nissin Foods has it, was invented by Momofuku Ando, who founded Nissin in 1948. The company has two museums in Japan dedicated to Ando’s inventions, which also include the Cup Noodle and something called Space Ram (instant noodles suitable for consumption in a zero-gravity environment, apparently). And now the Cupnoodle Museum has opened its first international outpost, in Hong Kong. Visitors to the museum are invited to make instant noodles from scratch and design their own ramen packaging.

This isn’t the first time noodles have been used as a spur to creativity – and Rakewell isn’t just recycling that old trope of the starving artist sustained by 50p packets of ramen. Since 2014, the Indonesian artist Cynthia Delaney Suwito has been using instant noodles as an artistic tool, boiling and then cooling them before she knits the noodle strands together to create delicate tapestries. The artist has said it takes between three and four hours to knit an eight-inch segment – and the irony is not lost on her. ‘I was doing it because I wanted to [explore] the idea of time,’ Suwito says. ‘How I’m doing something very slow to something “instant” like instant noodles.’