food as public space editor*
*Post series commissioned by Nicola Twilley (edible geography /foodprintproject / GOOD Magazine) as part of FOOD FOR THINKERS – An online festival on Food and Writing (18-23/01/2011)
The raised question about the actual role of contemporary food editing makes me think of Mary I and II, the Maries, also known as Daisies. Born in 1966 as main characters of Vera Chytilová’s film Sedmikrásky, they represent a post-Dadaist subversion of food; and food is their tool to show the excess of consumption through an extraordinary gluttony. Almighty goddesses in a Banquet of Profanities. They can see green apples from the Garden of Eden where nobody else does; they dare eat in reverse (dessert first, main course last) playing with sugar daddies to support their diet; they can use surgical scissors to cut and paste paper-printed courses; every meal is affordable for their imagination. Lick, smell, taste and swallow colourful pieces of magazines. Savouring phallus-shaped sausages, rolls, pickles and bananas…
Until they come across with a sumptuous and copious banquet for Czech Communist officials in a hidden room. There they go our editors, altering any established order of course hierarchy, flavour mix, sitting protocol and eating manners. An explosive cocktail between food fight and a dining table catwalk. But afterwards, clean conscience makes them clear every damaged item in the most stunning naivety, resettling broken dishes together and reconstructing the lavish courses in their particular finesse.
Fighting with food – and not for food – is every spoilt adult’s dream. And it is one of the most interactive ways to reactivate space. Fruit of a local incident in 1945, one of the most celebrated tomato fights still takes place in Bunyol, Spain. For some hours, overripe vegetables turn a village into a democratic meeting space, where everyone is at the same level. No classes, no differences, no identities; simply enjoying a pacifist battle. How fascinating it is to have 99% of the existing buildings empty, because all their dwellers are painting the town red, together.
Its German version is the annual Gemüseschlacht in Berlin, a battle-for-fun between Kreuzberg and Friedrichshain neighbourhoods with rotten vegetables: less waste of food, higher filthiness; another perfect excuse for Berliners inventing kaleidoscopic war costumes, psychedelic weapon accessories and unexpected chariots.
Something as simple as food can be the superb public space catalyst. Pop-up street tea parties already took place in London to commemorate the end of both World Wars. But it is still a recurrent tool for urban monotony: reclaim the streets for popular meals. Spain’s festivities like to fight for World Guinness Records of largest Paellas ever cooked. And interaction ad-hoc devices need to be built. How to prepare a single course for 100,000 companions? Spoons are replaced by pole vaults, building scaffolding instead of a kitchen worktop, distributing individual portions with a real-size digger… Kitchen-monuments allowing everyday celebrations just happen…And the edible may even turn into a landmark: insipid public space, which is converted both into a meeting point and a mental reference all of a sudden. Countless visitors go on pilgrimage to the bizarre Bubblegum Alley in San Luis Obispo, California.
The absurd spontaneous fact of sticking chewing gum to a random wall is far more powerful than any over-designed commemorative obelisk.
[1,2> stills from Daisies (Chytilová, 1966) via ][3-5> Tomatina fight in Bunyol, Spain via monoloco & sobreespana][6,7>Vegetable fight in Berlin via n24][8>Mountedofficer streetparty via bbc][9> Largest paella 1992 via portablepaella][10>largest paella 2001 via Mividainsustancial][11> Kitchen Monument by Raumlabor Berlin. Photo by Rainer Schlautmann][12> Bubblegum Alley, San Luis Obispo, California via MoleEmpire]