COURSES: An Inquiry Into Place, Publics and Food
CS13 in collaboration with Vicki Mansoor and Homeadow Song Farm, Jose Novales, Susan Gilbert, Cincinnati Cooks, Ufuk Adak, CAIN, Bill Brown and the 5,000 Club
In many ways, the act of cooking has long been about more than just food. Preparing and sharing food carries a social weight, a kind of bonding factor. The space where this act takes place has historically assumed an equally keen significance-- from the hearth of pre-appliance households and pubs to the electric range of the post-war suburban kitchen, the places we prepare our food have, until recently, been a hub of sorts. These places serve as gathering points-- launching a million neighborhood dinner parties and potlucks-- as well as informal classrooms where wisdom, culinary and otherwise, is passed down.
With fast food and box stores no longer novelty but status quo, our increased separation from the communal aspects of food preparation is a daily fact of life. As a culture, however, we still seem to exhibit a longing for the act of getting together, cooking and eating. We see a drive to get closer to the origins, preparation, and general social dynamic of our food in the rise of foodie culture, farmer's markets, community gardens, the popularity of restaurants with shared tables and open kitchens, and even cooking shows, with their presentations on how we might prepare impressive meals for others.
Paralleling our ongoing interest in overlaps of art and the everyday, CS13 presented a month-long project that looked to the comforts, history and politics of the kitchen, emulating the format and layout of cooking lessons and TV shows as a vehicle for discussion driven presentations by local community members. This project consisted of a working kitchen built in the gallery that will double as a meeting space and lecture hall, from which a weekly series of talks and demonstrations were programmed and led by local community members, merchants and non-profits. Focused on the social structures implicit in recipes, cooking traditions and food based services, COURSES hoped to provide a unique community space that offered both free storytelling, educational programming and shared meals prepared on site.
Galleries, unlike domestic spaces, are typically places of publication, even consecration. However, is this all an art space can provide? Perhaps these spaces can become truly alternative, providing in-between zones - not businesses, not true service providers - but laboratories for experimentation and creation, caught in the overlaps of art and lived experience. In this way, we wonder how a gallery may function similarly to a restaurant, cooking show or lecture hall and ponder whether an an artistic gesture or metaphor can also successfully serve and nourish?
Each Saturday in June and July of 2011, we featured non-institutional, free public learning experiences guided by guest speakers and organizations. Each week was themed around a different topic. Each Wednesday afternoon featured smaller events led by gallery members, featuring essay discussions, screenings and shared meals.
Contrasting a very literal sculptural presence, the installation of a working kitchen, with events that are open and inviting, CS13 hoped to play host to courses by and for our community. We hope these courses-- from the literal dishes being served to the learning experiences offered along side them-- spark discourse, discovery and curiosity.