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Caroline Hobkinson works with food as an artistic medium, creating events that examine the spectacle of the feast. She offers food to both the mind and the stomach through unforgettable gigs, half way between a performance and a dinner.
We caught up with her for an interview just a few days before her Slip, Slurp, Slump, Spill culinary dance performance for Hacked, a series experimental appointments at La Rinascente, shown in these pictures.
On Friday 19th Caroline presented in Milan a dining table laid bare, deconstructed and broken, where the spectators were invited to guess the exact story behind the set-up. Was it a wedding or a funeral? For sure, dark connotations where not missing!
How did you get involved with the food world?
In an accidental way: I studied Fine Art media at the St. Martin’s and then I went to train to become a theater director. After that, I worked in advertising and I ended up collaborating with a girl who was setting up pop up restaurants. I liked the idea that with food you can convey a complex concept in a democratic way because we all eat: it’s a nice tool to tell stories with.
What is your relationship with food?
For me cooking is something not very obvious. I recently had this realization: My mum is a doctor and my grandmother too; so cooking in my family was never a female task. It was something very exotic and I only learned in my twenties how to cook.
When was your first food event?
In 2009: I did an underground restaurant in my flat in Berlin. I divided the flat in two sectors: one side was supposed to be eastern Berlin and the other was western Berlin. It was done to celebrate the fall of the wall. Food was the big thing of Berlin of the west and the east, because you couldn’t get what was on the other part. Coca cola or gummy bears where things that people from the East could just imagine. Even now that he wall has fell, there is a big nostalgia about all the food of the East. I looked into telling the story of the two Germanys through two different menus. It was funny: it made me understand that the ritual of dining is something that I like to examine, to choreograph.
How do people react to your performances?
Sometimes it’s weird because I put them out of their comfort zone. I often ask them not to seat next to their friends. If you’re on your own among strangers it’s easier to appreciate a new experience. Good food is attractive to everyone and whether you want to interact with it or not, it’s totally up to you. I’m not forcing it. Any nice piece of art like a good film for example, is something that you can enjoy if you’re in the mood. You can dig deeper and discover some interesting ideas. So, also with food you can work in layers.
Food is an outlet for so many sectors at the moment: it’s a trend. Why?
That’s not the ultimate thing, but eating is the most intimate way to interact. And it’s a countertrend from the moment that the world is so global. I’m not a trend forecaster but I really believe that there is a countertrend for every trend. That’s why anything ephemeral draws our attention.
Is food just food, even when it’s the medium of a performance?
Yes! We’re probably still going to eat with a knife and fork in one hundred years. Food shouldn’t be elevated to a pedestal of something creative. I like the symbolism, but it’s not me who makes it because it’s always been there from the birthday cake to the church host. So it’s just taking all those obvious things out of context. I don’t play with food in the way of creating something new, I just draw people’s attention.