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Investigating the boundaries between art and cuisine, Cookbook.19 exhibition opened on 9 February at La Panacee MOCO in Montpellier, France and will be on display until 12 May 2019. It's the second edition of the project first born in 2013, thanks to the collaboration of the art critic Nicolas Bourriaud, curator of the Palais de Tokyo in Paris and La Panacée MOCO in Montpellier, and Andrea Petrini, culinary journalist, globetrotter, creator of the Gelinaz! culinary group and of The World Restaurant Awards.
The exhibition was created by 25 famous chefs and 20 artists, all of them internationally-renowned and under 50 years old, meeting around shared issues that have emerged in the last 5 years: food flavours and transformation, the banalization of culinary visuals, cultural identity and globalization. They venture beyond their comfort zone and experiment with new forms of expression, dealing with different materials to create multisensory artworks.
The Cookbook.19 experience stimulates the five senses, pushing visitors to interact with pieces of art in a fun way. Walking around the exhibition, visitors often can’t understand which artworks have been created by artists and which ones are the result of chefs’ imaginations.
One thing is for sure: the boundary between art and cuisine blurs in this “joyful but not just fun exhibition” (as Petrini defines it), as each artwork, installation and performance triggers a reflection on the universe of eating or on social, political, economical or artistic issues related to it.
Photo by Marc Domage | Olivier Cablat
Cookbook centred on a historical approach to the notions of dining and conviviality when it was first held in 2013 at the Ecole des Beaux-Arts in Paris. For the first time ever, artists and chefs met in the same space, but their universes remained separate. Five years later, Cookbook.19 returns to make a point about how the relationship between art and cuisine has evolved in the last few years, full of social, visual and cultural revolutions.
This time, the exhibition “provides an overview of the new synergies between art and cuisine,” explains Nicolas Bourriaud. “Artists investigate the question of the edible, using food as material for their artworks, while chefs are much more aware of the contemporary art forms that are now part of their culture. They implement them into their world, exploring new ways of expressing their creativity”.
Take a look inside Cookbook.19
At the core of chefs’ creative universe
Can the source of chefs’ signature dishes be compared to the artistic creative process? Some of the chefs that take part in the exhibition enable us to enter into the spirit of their culinary philosophy and dishes with their art pieces. For them, art is a way of enhancing the visual and material context of their cuisine.
« I called into action a number of chefs from all over the world that have different culinary styles but share a great creativity and an open minded approach. I already knew them and how they’re open to artistic experiences. I was sure they could go further in new performances, with a real collaborative approach » Andrea Petrini says.
Chef Rodolfo Guzman’s installation focuses on the progression of the fissure. Visitors are invited to hear a sound that reminds them of an earthquake, but in reality it's just the amplified sound of biting into a cracker. « This is a version of our signature dish at Boragó. The sensation of the fissure in the mouth can be as attractive as a flavour » explains the chef. « What’s really important to me is catching the essence of ‘delicious’. What makes the difference between flavours? What makes a flavour or an ingredient so delicious? It’s the total experience of it. »
Photo by Elide Achille
Flying in an underwater creature through a brainstorm in wonderland
Chef Thomas Frebel’s artwork, made with a dried and smoked moulded octopus, shows how an ingredient can be transformed into a piece of art if you apply the process of smoking, drying or fermentation. His artwork is a kind of sketch showing some guidelines for his creative work: “I want to be inspired by what surrounds me, and as I suppose it to be food as art, I’m going to only use things which have been on the menus of Inua.”
“Redzepi is more and more reticent to express himself as “René”, I knew that he was going to create a plurial piece of art” says Petrini. The collaborative life of the Noma project is the focus of chef René Redzepi’s artwork: a petri dish containing Noma staff handprints. The chef explores the “invisible”, which is a part of the magic of Noma experience. “Here, we harvested the invisible of each staff member at the restaurant and incubated it so it could flourish”.
Photo by Elide Achille | Marc Domage
Kaji Ibi Kaji
The young Brazilian chef Manoella Buffara creates a sculpture in collaboration with three artists, Danielle Carazzai, Rodrigo Ramirez and Patrick Afornali. Her artwork is a wooden box hiding a ceramic heart that becomes visible if visitors interact with it: a crank next to the wooden box is an invitation to touch. The chef explains that in the creation of this artwork “the main focus is on affection, about being in love with my craft, about risking the unusual and providing an experience, a surprise - with elegant simplicity”.
The taste of art
Can art embrace cooking tools or stimulate the sense of taste? Artists and chefs have used food and ingredients as material for edible artworks, pushing us to develop and question our sense of smell or taste, to make visitors live an unprecedented multisensory experience.
Painting the roof of your mouth
For the making of his edible retrospective, artist Davide Baula starts from four of his paintings composed of natural elements to create, in collaboration of the Michelin starred chef Daniel Burns, four astonishing ice cream flavours: mud, burnt wood, smoke and river sediments. The visitor can taste them while enjoying the vision of the artist’s paintings.
Photo by Marc Domage | Olivier Cablat
Artist Melanie Villemot invites visitors to interact with her three-dimensional installation by drinking the 36 sunset cocktails that compose it. This piece of art, placed at the entrance of the exhibition, focuses on the ritual of the vernissage and marks the spiritual and social activation of Cookbook.19.
Chef Maksut Aşkar’s installation is inspired by one of the tastes of his childhood. “This project is an homage to a childhood play. Aren't we all feeding ourselves with childhood memories through our senses?” says the chef. Visitors can taste his pink candies made with a technique his mother used to use for making caramelized sugar epilation wax when he was a child, watching the sensual pictures and video images of their creation.
Out of the comfort zone
A programme of performances by chefs and artists accompanies the exhibition. They take risks and experiment new provocative forms of expression.
Danny Bowien’s performance
American celebrity chef Danny Bowien gave a live music and culinary performance centred on the pressures of being a chef. Bowien entered a transparent cube placed in the centre of the auditorium scene, surrounded by music and food, while a video showing people eating was projected behind him. “I wanted to display what is like to be a chef, outside of cooking food. There is a contrast between the videos of people eating and being happy, and the chef in the box, doing quite the same thing they’re doing, but with another mood: he’s stuck his world of creation,” explains the chef. “I think there can be a lot of darkness in a chef’s life.”
Photo by Olivier Cablat
Copy shop, 2019
The Healthy Boy Band were live with a Copy Shop installation during the opening night of the exhibition. The three young Austrian chefs, Philip Rachinger, Lukas Mraz and Felix Schellhorn, all sons of famous chefs, created this collective group in 2017 to make a joyful and provocative reflection on common issues. For Cookbook.19 they created an installation centred on the concept of copyright and cultural appropriation. Imitation has always been an essential aspect of arts and cuisine. “People in our spheres talk about creativity, creatives believe that they create, we believe we create. In fact we are all copying from each other”. In their copy shop with transparent walls everything can be copied in total freedom: “Copy, come on! Don’t be ashamed”.
Sculpture artist Mahalia Köhnke-Jehl and video-maker Tania Gheerbrant collaborated to create a live installation about the conviviality of sharing food, in which visitors are protagonists. They taste gelled cocktails on a varnished plaster while being filmed. The video of the performance will be projected at the centre of the sculpture to extend the life of the artwork.
How will the relationship between art and cuisine evolve, what will be the next step for the Cookbook project?
“Cookbook is a living project and it has to evolve in its forms and performances in accordance with the context in which it’s created”, says Petrini. “What if in a dystopian future there was a proliferation of allergies and new philosophical alimentation beliefs? It could impact the life of fine dining restaurant and perhaps bring to the end of the culinary experience based on the menu system. Would dishes begin to be personalized on customers’ needs? Would chefs go further in considering the effect of food on health and restaurants become experimentation sites?”
Who knows: the evolution of society and cuisine are fast and unpredictable.