For most people the concept of food as art is foreign. Most home cooks don’t think about the artistic attributes of their meal, however some meals can, like art, evoke a multitude of symbolism about how the plate relates to a significant event or moment in their lives. I remember my first experience with food as art. It was 5 years ago at the Guggenheim Museum. The artist, Will Cotton, designed a wonderful macaroon sculpture that lived in my apartment for months before Noah forced me to throw it out. For me this sculpture wasn’t just about Will Cotton, it was about my childhood memory of sharing macaroon cookies with my grandfather. Last week, Creative Time announced their new project with artist, Marina Abramović who has created a dessert for Park Avenue Winter that will be available through March 30th. This is not just a fancy dessert. It is a performance piece, with you as the performer.
And so Noah and I decided we must experience this wonderful dessert first hand. It had been a few years since we’d been to Park Avenue and I was so pleased to be reminded of the gorgeous dining room. The light fixtures are artwork on their own and the tables are covered in softly textured leather as are the menus. Everything is simply beautiful. Our dinner was absolutely fantastic. I kept saying, I can’t believe we don’t come here more often.
It was finally time for dessert and I had been holding onto the small card, found on each table, with a description of the Marina Abramović special. The Volcano Flambé, 2011 is described as “a multisensory culinary intervention by the artist is collaboration with Park Avenue Winter Executive Chef Kevin Lasko.”
We ordered two.
In no time a serving cart pulled up to our table and two waiters presented us with 2 wooden boxes containing head phones and an mp3 player. We were told to put them on and press play. Immediately we heard Marina’s voice, calm and steady delivering her first line, “this is an experiment, this is an experiment.” She guided us to close our eyes and to breath 3 three times, “breath in, breath out.” And then, my favorite part, to open our eyes. Before us was a beautifully volcano shaped Baked Alaska with soft marshmellow, meringue – like peaks. The blue flame had blown out on both of our treats, although I’m sure the restaurant servers are still getting their timing down. Marina directed us to pick up our fork and taste the artistic creation. I certainly experienced the “hot, cold, creamy, crunchy” textures of the wonderful Baked Alaska. People at the tables around us were watching us and asking questions such as “what is that?” and “I want to try it.” Alas, we ordered the last two desserts of the night.
For me, the purpose of this experiment was not to over think. It was to be fully engaged in the moment. To be fully engaged in the food the way one would be fully engaged in any of Marina’s performance pieces, whether it be walking between two naked people or watching her carve her own body with a knife. I was truly engaged with the dessert. I savored each and every bite because Marina’s voice was literally in my head.
Bravo to Park Avenue Winter, Marina Abramović and Creative Time. I look forward to the three other artists, Janine Antoni, Paul Ramirez Jonas and Michael Rakowitz that will also grace the menu with their own interventions in the Spring, Summer and Fall.
More food as art events:
Felix Gonzalez-Torres’ work at the 2007 Venice Biennale, featured 700 pounds of cellophane wrapped black-licorice candies, which viewers could take with them.
Jennifer Rubell’s installation for Creative Time featured a cotton candy padded cell.
Will Cotton’s Macaroon Garden was featured in the New York Times article: Matter: The Sugar Land Express
Agathe Snow’s Chop Shop dinner parties were also written about in the New York Times: A Feast for the Eyes