This weekend I had the great pleasure of attending the very first Food Book Fair in Brooklyn with my friend Katherine from the Kosmic Kitchen. I only attended a couple of panels but those were so so fantastic that I am still ecstatic from the experience!
The Sunday morning session – yes, Sunday morning at 10am… (truly unfortunate scheduling because this was a brilliant session which should really be highlighted next year). Anyway, the ridiculously early Sunday morning session was called Food + Experiments and was actually an exploration of the intersection between food and art. You know…not the next chocolate piano, but Art art: totally creative, slightly insane, done for the sake of doing something totally insanely creative kind of art… using food as a medium. It was incredibly fun and truly inspiring and I am so glad I made it.
Yael Raviv kicked it off, introducing the Umami: Food and Art Festival, a nonprofit, biennale event which she started in 2008 as a platform to support and broaden the horizons of food and/as art. Unfortunately, we just missed the last one in April, but I am looking forward to seeing what they do in 2014.
I loved the work of Emilie Baltz, who grew up in a traditional French family in America, and as a result is doing some brilliant works/reflections on American food culture – exploring the fear factor around food (Porcelain Dust Mask Bowls ) and the idea that junk food is a truly and uniquely American Cuisine (24 karat gold guilt hamburgers and twinkies in American Dream)… not to mention the Jello Boob, a mold of her own, featuring hand-squeezed peach juice jello, with a hand-squeezed watermelon nipple, and filled with a “dirty” lapsang souchong infused panna cotta. Ummm….wow!
Also stand out were some crazy events by Michael Cirino of the blog, A Razor, A Shiny Knife, who is responsible for the recent “A Casual Sunday Lunch” event, which was not casual at all, but a extravagant 6-course sit down meal served on the L Train. Check out the video – this is really a fun ride!
(Hmmm… Alcatraz? I can’t wait!)
Best of all were some of the “Orphic Feasts” presented by Doug Fitch. This guy is brilliant. For one event, called Baguette Enorme en Gala, he and his co-creative Mimi Oka got permission to join a town festival in France, and offered to feed the entire town (400 villagers) – they then built a HUGE oven and made a 2,000 pound baguette, which all the villagers brought things to put inside. This included everything….it was a fishing village so there was lots of seafood including an entire 6 foot long shark, an assortment of various French grannies’ homemade concoctions, a variety of fresh fruit as well and cutlery and cloth napkins and coins…all baked into this enormous loaf.
OK. So then… how do you move such a thing?
So the villagers went home, got broom and mop handles, picked the whole thing up like pall-bearers, and made une grande procession to the center of town, where everyone dived into the bread. Apparently it was quite an anthropological event just to eat the thing, probably made even more lively by the inclusion of money and cutlery. Then the leftovers when to a local pig farmer for next year’s sausage, which then inspired “Orphic Memory Sausages“, another art event by Doug and Mimi at…the Umami Food Festival. How cool is that? Art begets Art, with Food, bringing people together again and again in the most creative way.
Doug Fitch’s Baguette Enorme Recipe
1000 kg flour
20 kg yeast
a pinch of salt
17 mason jars filled with whatever
33 liters of water (or 1 case of beer)
140 Francs (or 32 Euro) in centimes or coppers
Build oven, light fire, and heat till hot. Grease 5731″x16″x 4″ pan. Mix ingredients and let rise. Punch down. Cook until done.
Lastly, there followed only enough time for two questions, and they were the perfect ones. One was:
“How do you get funded for doing these kind of things?”
This is the perennial question for artists everywhere, of course. But when it comes to food, it is even more interesting because food, until very recently, had not been considered an art medium, no matter how creative or talented the chef is. Probably simply because chefs traditionally get paid. So it is inseparable from the question: “What is the relationship to art and money?”
Doug gave a really interesting example which highlights this: An Epilogue to the Baguette Story…
Apparently Doug and Mimi did not charge for the meal/event – they just did it, cleaned up and left – leaving the villagers to wonder what just happened. So a few weeks later the villagers started freak out a bit and called several several town meetings to discuss whether they had been inadvertently infiltrated by some kind of cult or sect. (!) In my mind, that kind of group paranoid egoic backlash is as close as you can get to proof that it WAS a truly transcendent art event, and it probably would not have happened if they had charged a centime for the “food”.
So it really makes you think about the relationship of money to art.. and food. Do you really have to not charge for what you do, to be called an artist?
And the other question asked was, “Do you ask permission before you do things like this, or do you just do it?”
What do you think?