The element that really defines a flatbreadaffair engagement is the bridging of the often impersonal art world with the welcoming atmosphere of the domestic space. As the curators rightly state, “Such a charged space offers additional narratives to unpack or re-dress” making the flatbreadaffair an unusual and exciting domain in which to host such works. On entry to the flatbreadaffair you are transported into a world of art and food; two cultural pillars of our society that compliment each other so well, yet are scarcely so intrinsic to each other. There are two structures that flatbreadaffair works around on any given evening. The first, an Artist’s Fête Dinner, is a seven course meal that takes place within the exhibition space. Always themed around the artist’s work, the food is a direct response to the exhibit and a collaboration with the artist. The food is as much a part of the evening as the artwork itself. The second structure is an Art Opening which typically works much the same as you would imagine any Exhibition Opening; hor d’oeuvres, wine, art, conversation, and of course, their customary flat-bread.
Rebecca Pristoop is the curator of flatbreadaffair. Currently working at The Jewish Museum in New York City, she has a personal relationship with many artists that she utilizes to generate individual artistic collaborations. Leah Rinaldi, the chef for flatbreadaffair, currently works at New York’s Pure Food and Wine. Leah enjoys exploring the role that food plays in our lives. Both eat a mostly raw vegan diet, although they do enjoy the occasional exploration outside of these boundaries and find the menu development all the more exciting because of the infrequency of this experience. This was put into practice within the menu for Jake Levin’s Sourced Material exhibition.
Sourced Material: Wool, was the first artist’s fête that flatbreadaffair held. The menu contained only locally sourced, sustainable, organic produce, with lamb as the featured dish. The entire evening from production to consumption actively engaged the principles behind Levin’s work. Rinaldi created the meal, from preparation to serving, in front of the guests, employing Sourced Material’s core principle of transforming raw materials and in the process, revealing the destructive aspects of production. The creation of appetising dishes from these raw ingredients reflected the commitment to sustainable agriculture that is so dominant within Levin’s work. The exhibits for Sourced Material were created from a variety of raw materials including wool, hemp, latex and wax, all of which enabled him to explore the industry and the environmental issues behind the production of material. In one corner of the room, felted yarn hung painfully stretched between butchers hooks, creating an uncomfortable parallel to a butchered animal in the slaughterhouse. In another, reams of plaited wool spilled across a wooden butchers block reminiscent of viscera.
The second event that was held within flatbreadaffair was Zehra Khan’s Beastly Habits. Here, Khan paints onto the human body in order to transform her models into animals. Each animal is placed within a created environment where furniture sits in front of drawn backdrops. The animals develop characteristics identifiable from the human psyche; developing habits, idiosyncrasies and recognisable mannerisms. The final product of this work is generally a photograph or film, within which the viewer sees a human disguised as a rat. Often showing the photographic image alongside the installation or film, Khan’s animals “speak to the hazards of human relationships.” In their paper crafted worlds, the animals search in desperation for companionship and love, becoming reliant on alcohol or smoking and descending into the depths of bitterness and anger. The meal for Khan’s Beastly Habits was themed around the various stages of a relationship from the tender beginnings to the bitter end. Khan staged a photographic installation during the evening.
December 15 2010 saw the opening for Gabriela Salazar’s Robert Moses: He Knows Us. Guests were welcomed into the world of Robert Moses (a New York City urban planner) as Salazar sees it, with traffic light dips (made of red pepper, yellow beet and yoghurt and spinach) and flat-bread. By asking such questions as “By what signs do we navigate our world?” and, “What is the relationship of the external/public to the internal/private?” Salazar’s site-specific installation investigates the intertwining of the two very different worlds and how they knit together so well and so comfortably within our lives. Using signs and familiar navigational imagery, ubiquitously distributed across furnishings and home-comforts all set within the domestic sphere, Salazar comments on graphic memory, directional choices we make within our lives and the familiarity of those objects so unfamiliar to nature. Stripped of written language, we are free to interpret as we will the symbols and directives presented within.
Choosing two such prevalent disciplines in which to work with and to combine them so completely that neither one is mutually exclusive from the other, provides people with an anomalous experience. Although food often has some presence at openings and exhibitions, it normally takes a backstage role, served only as appetisers or hor d’oeuvres. Rarely is it such a prominent feature as here.
Wine and conversation flows freely at flatbreadaffair and with the artist present as well, this provides for an unusual opportunity to gain a deeper knowledge of the works – something not normally possible within the confines of a conventional art gallery.
All artist works featured within the flatbreadaffair space have an underlying message or are making a relevant social comment whether this is reflecting on how we live our lives, or acknowledging certain aspects of the human psyche. I imagine that presenting these messages to us within such a domestic and everyday setting as the dinner table could create uncomfortable questions. For me, on looking at Gabriela Salazar’s work in particular, I was reminded of how materialistic the Western World of the 21st Century truly is.
Visit the flatbreadaffair at 180 Nevins St. #2, Brooklyn, NY 11217, 410-409-1216
Beckie Jones graduated from Aberystwyth University in 2009 with a joint honours degree in Fine Art and Art History. As a practicing artist, she uses art as a way of expressing her most personal feelings and beliefs in a physical medium. Over her years in art education, she has produced a number of projects that are gender-orientated and represent her outlook on life and her own personal experiences as a woman. She is currently the Online Events Coordinator for Studio HCE Virtual Gallery.