Eating the Forest Floor at the VAG’s First Edible Art Experience
Here There in collaboration with the VAG’s Young Associates and local chefs sought to illustrate the evolution of food in modern culture.
Not only did they let us touch the art—we ate it.
This past weekend the Vancouver Art Gallery’s Young Associates teamed up with Vancouver chefs from The Acorn and Latab, and event specialists Here There, to curate the Vancouver Art Gallery‘s first ever edible experience: a four-course meal to parallel the gallery’s current MashUp exhibition (running until June 12) and reflect contemporary art throughout the years.
“Food plays a huge role in how we experience, engage and connect with each other,” said Ken Tsui, one half of creative studio Here There. Our relationship with food is an important part of MashUp: “It’s one of the few ways in which every culture comes together.”
In order to create an authentic experience, Tsui and his creative partner Lizzy Karp gave the chefs only two major guidelines for the collaborative four-course meal: there had to be enough food for 150 people and each course had to fit on one or two small square tables for guests to be able to examine and appreciate. The rest was (for the most part) up to the chefs, who had three days to prepare the food.
Here’s a breakdown of each edible installation (so you can feel like you were there, too!).
First Course: The Forest Floor
On the menu: Reindeer lichen, chocolate bark, lentil soil, charcoal toffee, and mushrooms.
“This is our attempt at taking what we could from the forest floor, and making it into a meal,” said The Acorn chef Brian Luptak. He and fellow chef Rob Clarke explained the forest floor first course represented the origins of food in which people planted, grew and harvested their own fruits and vegetables.
Second Course: Canned Paté and Root Chips
On the menu: Vegetable paté and root chips.
These root chips paired with canned paté were representative of Andy Warhol’s factory and ready-made 1950s cuisine.
Third Course: Garden Glitch
On the menu: Carrots (and carrots and carrots).
Carrot variations at course three paralleled a generation of people who expect food now—people who’ve begun to rely on processed food. Each piece of carrot represented a different period of the carrot’s life, with some of the carrots having been dyed to fit consumer expectation. The course served as a gentle reminder to slow down and appreciate food. By making the same vegetable have different flavours, the course also paralleled one aspect of MashUp that focused on remixing culture.
Fourth Course: Space-Age Sundae Bar
On the menu: Wild huckleberry, candied orange, blueberry, strawberry and fennel meringue.
The dessert, by far the most surprising meal in the edible experience, represented the future. Chef Kris Barnholden (Latab) gave specific instructions regarding eating the sphere portion of the dessert as a whole. The latter made a distinct “pop” as you bit into it.
“Hottie,” “The Man,” “Extravaganza,” “What could you do?” “Yes is more,” and “Say no” are among some of the words that flashed brightly on tiny screens across from Barnholden’s serving station. It seemed like they represented propaganda and what our society is turning into, but arguably they also represented some semblance of our present. With this installation, including the dozens of tiny screens with the flashing messages, Barnholden hoped guests would reconsider their values when it comes to food consumption.
“This collaboration is a dream,” said Barnholden. “It’s the perfect opportunity to get people to engage with food and get them to think differently about what they’re eating.”