Commissioned by Art Dubai Projects and conceived by Delfina Foundation as part of the latest iteration of their popular Politics of Food series, The Wedding Project combines site-specific commissions and interventions by artists including Sunoj D, Larissa Sansour, Candice Lin, Manal al Dowayan, Taus Makhacheva, Nile Sunset Annex, Hind Mezaina, Fari Bradley, and the Centre for Genomic Gastronomy.
Inspired by a tenth century Arabic text that describes multiple different words that define ‘love’ and it’s wider meanings, eleven concepts were embodied in a subtle and sensational performance, provocation, food or drink. Beginning with hawa (attraction) and progressing through ‘alaqah (attachment) to kalaf (infatuation) to huyum (insanity), each dish – produced in collaboration with the culinary team at Madinat Jumeirah – explored the notion of food, recipes and cookbooks as markers of cultural memory that can be just as easily erased as they are preserved.
We met with Aaron Cezar, curator of Delfina Foundation and the Wedding Project, right before the installation opened to the public and to the guests of the first performative dinner (on March 16th). The set was just amazing, and both the ambiance and the energy in the air recalled of those of a real wedding…
Claudia Malfitano: How did you come up with this amazing idea?
Aaron Cezar: The Wedding Project emerged from our residency and public programme in London called “The Politics of Food”. Over the last two years, we have been inviting artists, curators and other thinkers to come together and explore food consumption, production and distribution. We have been looking at how creativity can be a way of rethinking some of the major problems of the world. Food is, of course, very essential to all of us and at the same time it’s integrated in the art world with drinks at the openings and dinners after gallery viewings.
We decided to look at the relationship between kind of food and art in a broad and critical way. There have been artists throughout history, from early Renaissance painters, who, like Caravaggio, painted still-life images with rotten vegetables that indicated the ethics of wealth, to Arcimboldo’s portraits of fruits and vegetables referring to cultural identity and class. The Futurists wrote a manifesto for cooking and eating, Gordon Matta-Clark was the co-founder of Food, a restaurant in New York in the 1970s, and most recently, artists like Michael Rakowitz have been looking at food and conflict. With our programme at Delfina Foundation, we have been continuing this line of investigation looking at the relationship between food and art.
Based on the success of our programme in London on The Politics of Food, we were invited to produce a project at Art Dubai. Food is very popular and accessible subject that does not require any particular cultural capital like art; everyone has taste buds, everyone has opinion on food and everyone needs it but not everyone has access to it, just as like art. The art fair asked us to devise a project that would be accessible and fun but also very performative.
The performance dinner has become a format that artists have been working with for awhile, so Delfina Foundation is trying to push the limits of the medium by hosting a wedding (laughs).
The Wedding Project takes place over three nights at Art Dubai for 76 people on each night. The meal has 11 courses and includes the work of 10 artists, the culinary team of Madinat Jumeirah, mixologists of Absolut Elyx, students from American University Dubai, and The White Boutique, who are wedding planners in Dubai.
CM: And how did you choose your artists for this programme?
AC: We chose the artists for The Wedding Project through the “The Politics of Food” programme. We have involved artists who were engaged with the programme and at some of the highlights – dishes or performances – that would fit into the context of wedding. Seven artists came directly from the programme and another three were selected to create special interventions as part of The Wedding Project.
The dinner is devised as eleven stages, each focused on a different concept of love, from attraction to infatuation to grief to insanity. Each concept of love is a dish, a drink or some kind of intervention that takes place. In short, the meal is a mix of the ‘wedding concept’, our previous resident artists, and the greatest hits of our programme the “The Politics of Food”.
CM: What is in the radar of the foundation for the future?
AC: This summer was launched the third chapter of “The Politics of Food”. Every year we have a sub-theme except for the first year when we looked very broadly at all the different issues that relate to food politics. The second year our sub-theme was ‘Sex, Diet and Disaster’; we looked at issues around gender and power, health and fashion, and also, well, the apocalypse! The apocalypse – and science fiction – was a useful framework for rethinking the world and how we might save or reimagine it through technology. This summer, our sub-theme is “Markets and Movements”. We will consider food movements and how the globalised market is the ultimate system of control and how we, as consumers, have a power – a choice – that we don’t often enact. For example, I read recently that there are 200,000 edible plants in the world but we eat 200 of them in the main because that is what is available in the market place in mass. This room where The Wedding Project is taking place is an indoor garden created by The White Boutique with Sunoj D. explores this; some of the plants in this room is partly edible.
CM: Oh, really?
AC: Yes, so, within the structure there is potted lettuce, chilli, basil, and coriander, among other plans. Tonight’s meal, the second course is the actual room.
CM: No, come on…
AC: Not the whole room but yes [laugh] but it will be the room; and the things on the table that relate to the idea of foraging.
CM: So you will reinstall for tomorrow’s dinner?
AC: Just the plants that are inside. I imagine that guests are going to cherry-pick, but let’s see, who knows they might devour the whole room! [laugh]
CM: You never know… [laugh]
AC: That would be incredible if it would happen.
CM: I want a picture of that [laugh]! OK, thank you so much!