Food & Art 3


Le Corbuffet is a most creative and entertaining cookery book. Esther Choi is a Korean / Canadian with a ph.D in architectural history and theory from Princeton University, a Masters in design from Harvard, an MFA from Concordia and a BFA in photography from Ryerson University. Choi has held teaching appointments at Ontario College of Art and Design and others.

Choi’s inspiration for Le Corbuffet arose from her doctorate research that had led her to East Anglia. Sifting through archives she discovered a menu designed by Hungarian artist Laszlo Moholy-Nagy, written for German modernist architect and Bauhaus school founder, Walter Gropius.

The sheer extravagance of an inter-war years menu, for Choi, presented a dichotomy between the ‘haves’ and the ‘have-nots’. Choi explored the function food plays in society, not just as sustenance but as a social and cultural commentary. Choi explains we all must eat to survive, yet how and what we eat is “anything but universal”.

Choi draws a comparison between food, and art and design, and the commonality they share: “as modes of creative production that can question and dismantle barriers” but also that they can “effectively produce and reinforce them through their participation in privatized channels of market value and art fairs, which limit access”.

There is, of course, more in Choi’s introduction, but the gist is that Gropius designed furniture democratically, for the masses. Yet now his work is hidden away in museums and galleries. Choi’s decided to conduct a social experiment inspired by this menu, with a view to reconciling her admiration for “avant-garde” designers, artists and photographers in relation to “the circumstances that afforded them their place in it”.

The book itself, named after “misogynistic” French modernist and architect Le Corbusier, contains recipes from Choi’s dinner parties, presented to friends, to realise her concept. Whilst the recipes are conventional, the titles are a play on individual names and the photographs make no attempt to sell the food, but instead pay homage to the artist inspired dish, by taking form, colour and structural cues from their work.

Unless one is well-versed in the history of design and art, reading the book necessitates additional research which adds enormously to the pleasure.

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