Last month Kaye Winwood attended Food Art Week (Berlin), this research opportunity was supported by an Engine Micro Bursary, from New Art West Midlands and The New Art Gallery Walsall. She reports back on her experiences.
This annual festival, now in its third year, is curated by Berlin-based Entretempo Kitchen who claim to be the “first contemporary art gallery to combine food and art”.[i] The festival includes exhibitions, workshops, dinners, dining experiences, salons and talks that take place over many sites and with different partners across Berlin.
The primary aim of Food Art Week is to interrogate important questions in contemporary society, using food as a catalyst to underpin this discourse. This year’s festival was entitled ‘Vs. Meat’ and approached “topics such as human and animal rights, feminism, conscious consumption, environmental issues and sustainability whilst calling attention to the political, social, and technological aspects of the meat industry”.[ii]
Working as a Creative Producer/Artist using food as a medium and multi-sensory experience as an artistic and curatorial practice, the festival provided an opportunity to meet a group of like-minded artists, producers and visitors, and to see and experience international practice.
The intention of this research trip was to expand my knowledge of the sector whilst contributing to specific areas within my research:
Expanded Dining – a term I coined to reflect a ‘beyond the plate’ approach to dining that I use in my own practice.
A research kitchen – a space combining artist studio and development kitchen to R&D creative food practices across disciplines.
My travel companions were collaborator Nuala Clooney with whom I am developing a range of tableware exploring the sensuality of the dining experience; and Dr Elisa Oliver, Director of FEAST online journal with whom I am exploring theories and practices of Expanded Dining.
Most of the activity took place during the evening, so on arrival Nuala and I had the opportunity to explore a little of Berlin before heading out for ‘Drink Art’, after all ‘drinking is the highest form of art’ according to Marioni, right?
After initially being dropped off by a taxi driver at a Psychotherapy Clinic over the wrong side of town (was it something we did/said?) we finally got another cab to the correct venue – uber cool ‘Keith’ Bar – a dark cavernous space lit by candlelight and specialists in whisky, German beer and cocktails.
On arrival, we were warmly welcomed by Chris Lloyd*, Coordinator of this year’s festival and his colleague Vanessa. We also had time for a quick catch up with Charles Michel* where we talked briefly about the lack of education around meat production and the potential for artistic practice to have a faster societal impact than policy.
(*) Chris and Charles are co-founders of the international Crossmodalist movement with whom I’ve previously met in UK. Chris is now Berlin-based, and Charles lives between London and Paris. More about them later …
The bar owner Ken (we still don’t know who ‘Keith’ is) – also an artist – had been invited to participate in the festival and worked with locally chef Tony Sanchez from ‘Sancho’ to create a dish and cocktail which resonated with the theme of this year’s festival whilst referring to his Latin American heritage. The specially designed plate was delicious and complex – layering flavours and heat beautifully in three tacos accompanied by a tangy pickled onion salad. The heat in one of the tacos was eye-wateringly intense – causing a pleasure/pain response often associated with chilli, amongst other things.
The cocktail – a Mezcal, tamarind and chipotle margarita – was intriguing and challenging. The rim of the glass was coated in grasshopper salt (or plain salt for vegetarians/vegans). It’s Mezcal smokiness was pimped using chipotle and given an added profile with a dose of tart tamarind. The margarita was sweetened (ever so slightly) with an almond and honey syrup and, whilst I couldn’t detect the honey nor almonds, I was pretty thankful for any notes of sweetness added to this piquant drink. The drink was served with a straw which we felt kind of defeated the object of the salty rim however, my companion couldn’t get enough of the grasshopper salt and fingered her glass until it was squeaky clean.
The event was ticketed, and diners arrived in pairs and small groups – I had the sense that many of the diners were already familiar with the bar (I might be wrong) and the bar had a convivial ambiance throughout although, as a seated event, it didn’t have the communality that I’d anticipated. Drink Art! was a really enjoyable as a satellite event but we were left wondering whether this event really addressed issues around within the festival.
I have been following Entretempo for a couple of years. I have been intrigued by their work within food/art and also their kitchen/gallery model, it’s a model that I am keen to explore in the UK and one that mirrors its historic predecessors – FOOD (Matta Clark, NY, 1970s), Holy Palate (Marinetti and Futurists, Italy, 1930s) but has relatively few contemporary peers.
I was delighted that Tainá Guedes, Director of Entretempo and Artistic Director Food Art Week, could make some time on Tuesday morning to meet us.
Tainá, intelligent and tenacious in equal measure, has worked hard to sustain the gallery and the festival. She has grown the festival from a passion for food and art and the festival now has 120 staff and volunteers over the 10 days of the festival. Originally from Brazil, Tainá told us that she has lived in Berlin since 2009 and set up Entretempo in 2013. She explained that Berlin seems like the only place in the world that this type of activity can thrive.
Entretempo combines gallery and kitchen in one space. The gallery space has a year round programme of food-related exhibitions, meals, events and workshops. The adjoining kitchen is modest in size but ample for Tainá and her team to produce food for events, commercial hires and catering. Whilst the majority of their work is ‘art’ based and not-for-profit however, the local council categorised them as a ‘restaurant’ at a substantially increased rate. Sadly this is symptomatic of a lack of understanding around the nuances of food related practice and is also true within the UK.
Tainá talked about the festival programme becoming increasingly politicised and activist. She programmed ‘Vs. Meat’ this year as an opportunity to consider the future of food within contemporary and future cultures. The events considered vegetarianism and veganism as a way forward, alongside feminism, sustainability and ethics. Next year the theme will be ‘sugar’ and will take place internationally across Brasil, LA, New York and Paris.
Nuala, Elisa and myself introduced our mutual areas of interest, in particular the female and sensuality within food and sensory events and discussed the possibility of working with Entretempo to present an event in Spring 2018. Watch this space!
After a jaunt across town to one of the festival’s related exhibitions – which was closed that day, argh – we explored a few other galleries including DAAD before heading to Prinzessinnengarten for that evening’s event – Forgotten Greens and Healing Powers.
This interactive dinner was sited in the beautifully conceived Prinzessinnengarten comprised of allotments, a bar, kitchen, apiary and park. A beautiful place to saunter, meet, drink and eat.
Our event was hosted on a modest timber platform, with a tarpaulin roof and seats made from water barrels. The artist/chef Ines Lauber (Studio Ines Lauber) – introduced the event, the ethos of which was a consideration of our diet and forgotten foraged foods. A reminder to reconsider the use of natural food as a larger part of our diet.
Our dinner was made almost entirely from ingredients from the allotments, and started with a rosehip and basil spritz embellished with rose petals which was delicious. In small groups, we were invited to make a butter or quark spread using fresh herbs and spiced salt which we devoured with freshly made spelt and millet bread. After which we had some ‘messy play’ with clay.
We rolled out our clay, placed vegetables and herbs in the centre of the clay and rolled carefully to create airtight parcels which were then taken to an outdoor fire to be cooked. Whilst they were cooking we had an opportunity to network with our fellow diners and search out and pick foods from nearby trees, hung in plastic balls, or on washing pegs. A lovely idea, but some of the packaging and fastenings didn’t prescribe to the ethical aspirations of the food event, and felt at odds with the experience. We were seated again and given an insightful talk by a winemaker from Pfalz and treated to a beautiful Riesling made using soil diversity methods which he explained in great detail.
Armed with our rolling pins we cracked our vegetables open, steaming hot and full of flavour, they were accompanied by a fresh herb salad, a tomato and apple ketchup, garden pesto and hummus.
We then walked over to the apiary and met the local bees (and a tiny mouse) for an inspirational fact filled talk about the hives at Prinzessinnengarten from death inducing mating rituals to mummifying rodents! Walking back across Prinzessinnengarten to our tables in the dusk was beautiful and really added the overall ambience of the experience. At the table we were served a whipped ricotta cream with honey from the bees. The interactive aspects of the experience prompted discussion, creativity and pleasure and provided a reminder of some of the forgotten, and underused, methods of producing and using foods.
Ultraviolet Schnitzel, Uli Westphal
After dinner we dashed across town to attend a talk by Berlin based artist Uli Westphal in yet another cool bar – Das Kapital – a meeting point for artists, talks and salons. Uli’s “works deal with the way humans perceive, depict and transform the natural world. [He is] especially interested in how misconceptions and ideologies shape our view of nature. In recent years [he has] focused on the portrayal and transformation of nature through the food industries. [His] work is multidisciplinary and research based, frequently consisting out of collections, classification systems, simulations and experimental set-ups.”
The event was a thorough introduction to Uli’s practice whose conceptual work across media provides a commentary on food, product marketing and consumerism from creating digital images, producing light installations, sculptural objects and photographs; and also an opportunity to witness the suspended UV schnitzel at the end of the bar!
We headed to the exhibition Flesh on Flesh at Momentum Gallery, a gallery and residency programme for time-based arts. The works in this exhibition used raw meat as an artistic medium or symbolic tool in a screen-based exhibition including new commissioned work alongside the well-known work Meat Love (1989) by Jan Svankmajer. It was an abhorrent, sometimes brutal, sometimes humanising, display of ‘flesh’ drawing parallels between human and animal.
Later that day we headed to a Vernissage: Crossmodalism Food Art Showcase presented as a satellite event for Tech Open Air 2017. The Crossmodalists are an international “movement born from the synthesis of art, science, and entrepreneurship. It is based in learning and collaboration across non-traditionally linked disciplines, ideas, and communities”.[iii]
The Vernissage featured screenings of films by Dr. Tereza Stehlikova (Royal College of Art, London), and No Water For Whales (Colombia), a talk by Charles Michel (Crossmodal Research Laboratory, University of Oxford) and photographer Joe Sarah.
The evening also included the opportunity to experience ‘Perfume Orchestra’ an existing work, adapted for one, with specially created perfumes wafted in front of you as you sat listening to Wagner in complete darkness. It was an interesting experience in how the olfactory senses are affected by music.
Sadly it was time to leave Berlin but on way to the airport I had time to visit the Hamburger Bahnhof to see the exhibition moving is in every direction. Environments – Installations – Narrative Spaces – an extensive exhibition covering 3,500 square metres and including works by Alan Kaprow, Joseph Beuys, Susan Philipsz and Pipilotti Rist – interrogating authorship, participation and environment.
The trip to Berlin was hugely enjoyable and invigorating and has given me plenty of food for thought (no pun intended) however, I was disappointed that the Food Art Week programme was announced so late in the day that we had already booked our travel and missed the main exhibition and many of the events I would have liked to attend.
This research trip was an incredible opportunity to spend time with peers and collaborators, make new contacts and experience new work. All of which I know will be of enormous benefit to my artistic and professional development.
[iii] Taken from the Crossmodalist Facebook page