Basil AIZeri: The Mobile Kitchen Lab

20160302_142957_resizedSince the food-themed exhibition On The Table opened at the Dunlop Art Gallery at Central Library in late January the above-pictured mobile kitchen has been sitting in front of the gallery window.

The kitchen is the creation of Toronto-based Palestinian artist Basil AIZeri. He calls it the Mobile Kitchen Lab, and on Saturday March 19 he’ll be in Regina to do a durational performance at the gallery.

In past performances, AIZeri has cooked a meal in the gallery while patrons watch and interact with him. Sometimes, while he’s cooking he communicates with his mother via Skype.

At the end of the performance AIZeri shares the food with people in the gallery. Consistent with the broader themes of On The Table the performance relates to subjects such as the role food plays as an expression of cultural identity and social engagement.

AIZeri’s performance goes at the Dunlop on Saturday between 3-6 p.m. If you’d like to read more about AIZeri’s practice here’s a short article from late 2013.

Author: Gregory Beatty

Greg Beatty is a crime-fighting shapeshifter who hatched from a mutagenic egg many decades ago. He likes sunny days, puppies and antique shoes. His favourite colour is not visible to your puny human eyes. He refuses to write a bio for this website and if that means Whitworth writes one for him, so be it.

5 thoughts on “Basil AIZeri: The Mobile Kitchen Lab”

  1. So… just to make sure I understand. This gentleman is going to make some food and then share it with the patrons in attendance, correct?

    That is kind of what every restaurant does, right? You walk in, you sit down, you order some food and then a cook (or chef) makes the food and then it’s served to you and you eat it. Did I miss anything?

    Why is this an event, a thing? Is this art? If so, would someone please explain to me why it is art?

    I may be a philistine, but… if someone could explain the significance of this I would certainly be willing to turn my thinking around.

  2. Don’t expect an intelligent or even a courteous response, billy bob, because the folks who think that this is art will take the view that, if you have to ask, you couldn’t possibly understand.

    What surprises me the most about this performance is that the curator is allowing cooking in the display space. One of the biggest concerns of art galleries is air quality and relative humidity, and the Dunlop, being located in a public library and not a dedicated building, is more challenged than most venues in that regard. And then to cook in that space? Really?

  3. Hi billy bob, to try and answer your question, I cribbed a couple of points from Wikipedia (mainly due to time considerations, but the relevant articles summarize performance and conceptual art reasonably well). I apologize in advance for the long answer.

    AIZeri is a performance artist. Laurie Anderson and the Blue Man Group are two examples of performance artists who are reasonably well-known.

    Performance artists often challenge the audience to think in new and unconventional ways, break conventions of traditional arts, and break down conventional ideas about “what art is”. Performance art emerged concurrently with and shares some of the same concerns as Conceptual Art, as defined by artist Sol LeWitt:

    “In conceptual art the idea or concept is the most important aspect of the work. When an artist uses a conceptual form of art, it means that all of the planning and decisions are made beforehand and the execution is a perfunctory affair. The idea becomes a machine that makes the art.”

    I don’t think AIZeri’s execution might necessarily be “perfunctory” in this context, but the definition is relevant insofar that his planning – plus using the weight of the ritual of cooking – is a large part of informing what he’s doing on the day.

    Like all art work, there’s no one piece or performance that’s going to speak to everyone. The best thing would be to see and engage with the performance, and then judge for yourself whether he was successful. AIZeri is questioning the nature of what we think of as being art, and would almost certainly be working from a similar starting point: “Why is it art?”

    As to the other point, like most contemporary art galleries, ventilation and climate control allows for a variety of airborne gaseous and particulate matter, as long as it doesn’t have a detrimental effect with people’s health or the surfaces of artwork in the shared space. I can think of at least three shows at the Dunlop which utilized a smoke or fog effect.

  4. I stand corrected! That was a good explanation, and a happy departure from what usually happens when items posted here draw questions such as billy bob’s.

    I’m glad that the Dunlop has had improvements made to its climate control and ventilation in recent years. I would think, though, that fog/smoke effects would be less potentially troublesome than cooking, which requires heat and emits both moisture and food particles, which can end up as residue, not only on artwork in the space but on the room’s surfaces and in the ventilation system itself.

  5. Thanks Barb! Hopefully it’s a way in if billy bob (or anybody else) wants to give it a shot.

    My experience with the Dunlop staff is that they’re a courteous and conscientious bunch, and I’m sure they’d be happy to answer any questions regarding cooking in the space.

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