Artists’ Recipes: an Interview with Admir Jahic & Comenius Roethlisberger

by Carla Ingrasciotta
September 3, 2015
Carla Ingrasciotta
Admir Jahic & Comenius Roethlisberger

The Basel-based artist duo Admir Jahic & Comenius Roethlisberger are well-known for their mercuriality and assorted use of media in their art projects and artworks, making them unpredictable and challenging the viewer afresh each time. All their projects are tongue-in-cheek, replete with subtle questions. It is this very buzz that makes the artists distinctive, luring viewers over and over into the visions expressed in their works.

Andreas Kreienbühl: Where did your idea for a cookbook come from?

Admir Jahic & Comenius Roethlisberger: Apart from our work as an artist duo we share a passion for cooking and eating, and so in a way this book was just waiting to happen. Our day-to- day conversation at the studio mostly starts with the question “What did you eat last night? What did you cook? Did you change the recipe at all?”. When we set out to create this recipe book we somehow didn’t want to have complete control over it and in a sense this is how we work as artists, in that we like to give ourselves a free rein. We’ve achieved that by giving the artists’ entries “carte blanche”, simply providing them with a template, a guideline. We asked selected artists to place a handwritten recipe on the left-hand page accompanied by a picture, a photograph, or a watercolour on the right. Obviously each individual contribution has been a surprise and some have exceeded our wildest imaginings. We’ve thoroughly enjoyed this experience.

AK: Will we be able to see the collection of submitted works?

AJ&CR: The recipes will be displayed in a unique book at the Gallery von Bartha in Basel in early November 2015. The book will be auctioned and all proceeds will be donated to a charity working in the field of nutrition and water supply.

AK: In a manner of speaking, we could say that the artists’ input somehow provided the structural ingredients for the recipe book. What made you ask artists from all over the world?

AJ&CR: We asked artists, including world-renowned ones, out of sheer curiosity. We wanted to put together a recipe collection without any preconceived objective; artists would share the dish they most enjoyed cooking and we would see what it revealed.

AK: Cooking, and by that I mean the preparation of food – making it edible and easy to digest – is of core significance in the evolutionary development of we human beings. Since time immemorial, we have carefully passed our knowledge of gathering and collecting, conserving and preparing food on to the next generation, refining and altering recipes along the way. Therefore each recipe contains both a very personal component and is of great value to our cultural heritage.

AJ&CR: From the beginning we sensed that this project would become very intimate. It’s wonderful to discover another aspect to the artists, other than what is generally known about them – while always mindful of what they represent. Authenticity is manifested differently from the way it can be brought to life in museums or art spaces and all the artists involved have found themselves on an equal footing with each other. Above all the book is meant to be a manual, an inspirational source of recipes.

AK: Have you cooked any of the recipes yourself yet – from this sizable collection?

AJ&CR: Yes, we’ve cooked about twenty-five out of a total of eighty-one. For us the recipes are more of a guideline and we’ve had a lot of fun playing around with the ingredients. That way there is always something new emerging and all the recipes are galvanising in their own way. The most thrilling part of Artists’ Recipes is that with a simple dish, such as Maurizio Cattelan’s “Pasta al Pomodoro”, you’re seeing things from Maurizio Cattelan’s point of view. In so doing we’re not thinking about the pasta al pomodoro any more, but rather about Cattelan’s favourite recipe. What happens then is that we complement this by adding our own ingredient, the “Jahic & Roethlisberger” vision.

AK: It’s worth noting that recipes are not only to be discovered in your book but also find applications in your work as artists. All sorts of substances, in fluid or hardened form, constitute the core of many of your works. Liquids undergoing a morphological journey such as in “Paradise Now”, “Into the Deep”, “You Know the Day Destroys the Night” or the most recent “Neues” viewed at Galerie Idea Fixa. Did you create customised recipes for those works?

AJ&CR: Over the years we’ve been collecting materials and concepts and creating a huge stockpile of props and equipment and today we are able to draw from it selectively. When it comes to cooking, things work in exactly the same way. Olafur Eliasson told us, “cooking, like art, is both reactive and creative – it is about being in flux, navigating and trusting our senses and then connecting and transforming.” Our way of looking at things is very similar. In our current work, called “Contemporary Sculptures”, we’ve used a variety of fruits and vegetables.

AK: Whenever we think about getting away from it all and immersing ourselves in an entirely different culture from our own we often turn to exotic dishes.
As we cook and enjoy them we embark on a short trip, so to speak. We’re being transported to another place, the same sensation a personal analysis of our work may provoke. Viewed from that perspective, Artists’ Recipes incorporates something of the tour operator. Mental and conceptual doors are being opened. Technically speaking, should this publication be seen as part of your corpus as artists or rather as a pure act of publishing?

AJ&CR: Since Artists’ Recipes is a book that we would buy ourselves, we have the distinct role of publishers. However, our collectors and friends see it more from the artwork angle. Whether it is one or the other is for the readers to decide, we enjoy being tour operators. Both of us like to observe, we’re interested in aesthetics and how it has changed over the years, in art as well as in cooking and eating.

AK: Could you give our readers a recipe as an appetizer to the book?

CR: The day before yesterday I would have suggested “Bread and Butter with Chives” served on a porcelain plate. Yesterday, Anish Kapoor’s “Lobster and Pig Stew”. Today, Jeppe Hein’s “Superyogi Bread” accompanied by Olaf Breuning’s “Salad” (his usual lunch). But I actually need to lose some weight, so I’ll go for Marina Abramović’s recipe.

Artists’ Recipes: ISBN 978-3-906237-04
Publisher: BOLO Publishing / Lambrecht
Language: The artists’ original languages with translations into English 352 pages in colour
Available at:

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