Salt, banknotes, Parmesan and revenge porn: all have been used, at one time, as types of currency. ‘Circulation’, curated by author, publisher and NR-Projects manager John Holten, casts a critical eye on values and their inflation. Uniting performance (Hendrik Schneider), poetry (Hanne Lippard) and painting (Ivo Gretener) among other media, the exhibition featured a dinner performance ‘I Promise’ as constitutive element. 25 excited dinner guests – mainly artists, curators and their friends – gathered around a large, white-tiled table at NR-Projects. ‘I was sceptical at first, when Hendrik and Mark (Pennock, initiator of the Bon Bock culinary residency) approached me with the idea of a dinner performance.’, Holten said. ‘But it turned out really well, and was an integral part of the exhibition. I was surprised at the amount of cross-over between the exhibition and the dinner.’
Separated by a large table piled high with homemade bread, the chefs Natasja Loutchko and Felix Bröckner toiled in the open kitchen, stirring soups, garnishing scallops and braising ox cheeks. The four-course dinner focussed on ingredients that were used as commodities for trade: the first course, an almond, garlic and parsnip soup emphasised the use of salt and almonds, both commodities that have been traded since ancient times. Other ingredients included chocolate, tobacco (combined as tobacco-infused mousse) and cattle – long-established signifiers of status and wealth. The menu also featured Amalfi lemons and scallops – contemporary takes on old-world aspirational consumption.
Integral to both the meal and the exhibition, Hendrik Schneider’s performance took place after the first course. Guests had been provided with Exacto knives and cutting mats. We’d been told to bring two new ten Euro notes, and Schneider guided us in slicing off stripes of the notes, two millimetres at a time, passing on our mutilated slices to our left-hand neighbour – thereby ‘creating’ 20 Euros, and doing our bit for inflation. Schneider challenged us to spend out mutilated notes as part of the performance. ‘Well, I would try in a dark, crowded bar at 4 am,’ the artist Hanne Lippard suggested.
Loutchko and Bröckner were both trained at the Städelschule, an art school in Frankfurt that emphasises the connection between art and food. Their collaboration worked really well,’ Holten said. ‘She’s an artist-chef, and Felix is more of a chef-curator’. The duo are the current residents in the Bon Bock culinary residency. The residency aims to bring the culinary and visual arts together, exploiting the city’s freshly revived food scene and its connection to global culinary practices.
Parsed as an extension to the exhibition and its theme – for what circulates more rapidly than ideas – ‘I Promise’ encourages us to engage with the history and meaning of the ingredients on our plate, adding another dimension to the exhibitory repertoire. It’s also testimony to the growing collaborative mood between Berlin’s artists and its chefs.
‘Circulation’ runs until 3rd April at NR Projects, Bergstr. 22, 10115 Berlin
Bon Bock’s programme can be found under bonbock.com
Text by Jeni Fulton