hungry city and the existential crisis

last week, on my way to the usual cafe sit-down time, i went to the hungry city exhibition at kunstraum kreuzberg/bethanien, a group show, focusing on agriculture in contemporary times.

it was a really worthwhile show. my criticism is that there wasn’t a clear room sheet (which is why i have no names attached to the works i’m talking about and some of the actual displays were a little half-arsed and ‘typical’ execution.

mostly, it was an excellent group show with some great video about custom-tractor culture in eastern europe, fruit maps (that reminded me of nicola twilley’s work) and a super-disgusting videos about pigs (which i had to walk out of immediately).

the biggest problem with seeing the show was, rather than get me all excited about art and/or changing the world’s perspective about the role of capitalism on agriculture and the environment, i nosedived straight into an existential crisis.

art does the same old thing, over and over again – maps, videos, photos, words about issues that the world has.
and the issues are the same old issues over and over again – environment, capitalism, colonialism, disease, poverty, etc.

and nothing changes.

art does not change anything.

and i am an artist. i want to change things. this is a problem.

i actually spent the day very depressed.

i half-heartedly considered whether i really could be the human rights lawyer i keep threatening the world to be. or the al jazeera/economist journalist. i spewed my angst onto facebook and felt partly relieved, partly justified.

and then somehow it passed.

i’ve seen some beautiful work since then and have been getting distracted by films and theatre, etc. but not much. it’s still a little below the surface.

but, back to the main exhibiiton. if you’re in berlin over the next few days and are not an artist, you should go and see the show. it’s meaty: full of interesting perspectives on the world.
and if you can’t get there, subscribe to nicola twilley’s blog. it will give you some of the flavour.

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on the go-slow

i know that it’s my blog and i’ll post when i want to, but i did just want to fess up to being slightly pre-occupied at the moment and having a little trouble with making time to blog.

between a tonne of new projects, new semester, a weird sleep-inducing-sickness-thing and a stack of interesting stuff in town, it’s a long time between drinks.

in the mean time, here’s a disco burger, courtesy of maurice golotta at don’t come (a pretty rad gallery soon to disappear, sadly).

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baking architecture

I’ve been working on one of the baking architecture projects for this year’s state of design festival*- the one between jill’s restaurant and hassell. It has actually been a fantastic merger of my many loves: sculpture, food, architecture and family. The crew at jill’s have been an extended family to me for a while, and my mum happens to be the sous chef there. So when she told me about the project, that she’d be partnered with hassell and was a little nervous, i jumped at the chance to get involved.

And, as it turns out, my skills have been quite useful. i’ve been able to translate between the lanugage of architecture and food, on both sides of the form/taste divide. And the collaboartion itself has been an amazing experience. The idea of combining both these practices is genius.

In terms of ‘practice’, there have been a surprising number of similarities (as well as some of the obvious differences). On a basic structure, they have very similar hierarchical dynamics – head chef/principal architect, sous chef/senior designer, model maker/dishpig. on this project, it has also been inspiring (and a little bit scary) to see that both of the ‘seniors’ are women and have a similar type of engagement with the project. it’s all about ideas and throwing in possibilities and thinking big.

and then you have the designer/artist/model makers reeling them in to focus on the project, discussing the practicalities, making the work, rearranging the pieces. it has been fascinating to watch unfold.

in terms of the materials, the work really does sit firmly in the middle of architecture and food. the duration of the exhibition is 10 days. which, for architecture is like the blink of an eye. for food, it’s like eternity. and so, the forms are essentially a big compromise and a stretch for both sides to think a little further afield.

the architects have been liberated by the lack of building codes and planning infrastructure durge – allowed to play with texture and colour and wobbliness and smell. [since when did you judge a building on its smell]. materials are tested with our tongues and our noses and if a bit breaks, they get to pop it in their mouth.

whereas the chefs have been focused by the intensity of the timeframe – it has been a great challenge to find foodstuffs that will last the time but still reflect a prescribed form. instead of tasting the work, to see if it works, it is about shape and image – the structure and ‘behaviour’ of food. it is about combining flavours that might ordinarily be awful, but work because, when it sets, best reflect that alcove and overhanging floorplate. or something along those lines.

from where i’ve been sitting, it has been a great project of problem solving goodness. and i have the fortune of being relatively objective in the whole process – not my building, not my ‘cake’. i get to work with some of the decorative elements, to be a studio assistant again and to work with some of the most amazingly talented creative types in Victoria.

I’m looking forward to (and a bit nervous of) seeing all the entries, which are unveiled on the Festival opening night at the AIA – Architects Institute of Australia – on the 15th July and pretty chuffed at the good times had by all.

*especially as i was supposed to have a work of my own in the festival, but had to pull out for reasons i won’t go into yet.

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designing places to eat privately in public

Hell On Earth

as some of you regular readers will vaguely remember, i’ve been doing some research about public private and private public places. as part of some post-grad study. not just as something to do on the weekend.

anyway, last week i took my lanky midlander UK plannery friend to hell’s kitchen in melbourne, and as we were overlooking the hustle and bustle of centre place, i was reminded about some stuff i have been thinking about since i was in europe last year, relating to eating in public. and being alone.

i believe there’s quite an art to designing an eating space (as opposed to retail, or other public spaces). it’s a balance of logistics, cash flow (ie – 3 large tables gets x amount of business, where as 7 small tables and a bar gets y), ambience and dynamic. it’s a space that has to be infinitely personal and public – at the same time; it needs to take noise and smell into consideration; anywhere from a single, intensely private dining experience to an amazingly social banquet experience – and everything in between.


and i believe that the starting point for this is possibly the consideration of single-dining. i think if you have a restaurant/cafe/bar where someone feels comfortable enough on their own but amongst others, it’s not too far to becoming a place where they feel like bringing others.

in europe, i noticed that restaurants, cafes, etc are more designed with the single person (as well as the big group) in mind – tables or benches with your back to the wall but facing the rest of the place – closed enough to not feel so exposed, so vulnerable, but still open enough to be able to participate in the collective dining experience. and then extend that to the tradition of eating outside in public – especially in italy, in the piazza, as you walk around with cheese and tomato sugo dripping down your arms from the lunchtime pizza.

some of my favourite places are those which accommodate me as an individual, providing me with the privacy of my own eating experience, my own thoughts, food-based neuroses and choices, yet allow me to participate in the common action of eating, together, amongst my fellows.

whereas dining places that are only for the group, only for the couple – those with friends, large families and many colleagues, opens up a gap for people to feel that they must belong. and if they are on their own, they must be lacking. and lack is an anti-social condition (i wonder what lacan would think of that statement). well, certainly in western societies.


presumably the form of dining spaces have evolved out of the behaviour of dining, but what of those new spaces that are designed? those that need to be designed to accommodate cross-cultural, global and borrowed culinary habits in the cities of the future? where we are at one more singular and infinitely more populous than times past.

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