As part of a performative dinner series Neofuturist dinner, hosted at Mediamatic, Artist Suzanne Bernhardt and Chef Thor developed the concept and courses for Bodemdrang. Centered around the idea of reconnecting ourselves with the earth, Suzanne incorporated her ceramic practice within a five course meal that utilized clay baking method, included clay as food ingredient, and fruit plastic which highlighted our changing relationship with the Earth. During the two months since prior to the dinner, I was in charge of production support for the artist. Helping from practical matters such as the choreography of courses, layout of the room, to strengthening concept by utilizing spoken words, while during the actual dinner, offering a hand in the kitchen where half of the magic happens, I have seen from front to the back how such a production can not happen without a team of skilled, enthusiastic people. This has been a truly exciting and inspiring experience, not to mention I got to cook, which always makes me happy.
Underneath you will find a small recap I wrote after the event, you can read the entire piece on the webwite of Mediamatic.
Four days in late November, every evening, Suzanne Bernhardt and Chef Thor invite guests to a journey through various “earths”: from hardened rock, grainy sand, molten “lava” to burnt clay, crumbly stone and blazing “plastic”. At the end of each night, everyone walks away with belly full of nutrition, and a soul enriching experience that connects one another and them with the ground under their feet.
Each day around noon, the kitchen starts buzzing with heat, aromatic herbs and chickpeas blending into a green bed waiting to be seeded. People pacing back and forth holding checklists are building up the garden of earthly delight. Chinese calligraphy brushes collected, long spoons laid out on the table waiting to be picked up and distributed. Restaurant tables were put together to form a long line, laid on top, two layers of colored paper that serve as table cloth. Not far outside, firewood are being stacked up, the waterfront stage is just hours away from being lit up by volcanic heat. Into the barn, behind shut doors and black curtain, water bowls standing await, next to which, empty rubbing gloves are suggesting action.
At 7pm, Suzanne Bernhardt, in her brick red working suit, lights the fire, contained in the bottom of a metal barrel, topped with a special lid, the barrel becomes a working kiln for ceramic burning. She carefully controls the gas valve to make sure the temperature reaches 1000 degree, once the color fixates on a bright orange glow, she knows it is ready. In the meanwhile, the Stone Mind was being set up by Thor and his teams. Various hot steaming clay encased root vegetables, roasted spiced celeriac were being laid on the table. There are calligraphy brushes for each seat, waiting to be picked up. Two kinds of inks come in petri dishes, “stones” are scattered around a white sandy line in the middle of the table. Lights dimmed, the first guests are arriving through the door.
Coming from the chill wintery outside, we have a warm welcome await for you. In the “plant room”, two people dressed in long khaki overalls are standing in between our two giant fishtail palms. The bar has selected a few appetizer drinks for this social moment before the dinner officially starts. Crowds start to gather, chatters and clicks of the glasses are announcing a cheerful evening. Seizing the moment, one staff in Khaki suit walks past the crowd into the room next door—the “Haeckel Room”. He holds a pot of warm broth, and lay it on top of a metal table, next to it, a pile of earth and some empty glass jars. Some curious observant eyes caught him, they came to inquire about the broth. Soon, everyone starts lining in front the stand, where the broth is being poured into each glass jar and each guest is instructed to take a scoop of the heilaarde into their jar. Drink it while its hot!
The earthy umami from mushrooms in the broth and heilaarde suggests the theme of the night—earth. While the warmth and taste linger, Suzanne came standing in front of the crowd. She explains that drinking a mixture of local soil can give good health, and “We invite you to this groundbreaking journey with us tonight…” opens the door to the first course in the restaurant: The Stone Mind.
Calligraphy brushes, ink petri dishes, salt crystal line that imitates the karesansui in Japanese Zen gardens, guests are invited to a table of exploration and contemplation. One shall not be afraid of getting ones hands dirty, break through the clay, smash, splash and …. Everyone’s face were glowing with youthful (excitement), “ look mine is a beet, let me see what is yours!” someone says to her partner holding a cracked open clay stone, where ruby red is shining through. Another is too busy dipping the ink sauce to make a perfect picture on his clay stone to search for the edible part that is hidden inside. Aluminium foil wraps another treat: cumin, fennel spiced celeriac that are cleverly paired with sharp citrus and fresh mint. Unwrapping, unravelling the hidden treasures point out our direction of investigation: going deep, inside. Again, Suzanne invites the guest to put down their brushes and join her into the wide open, where she and her colleagues are going to give a Raku ceremony on our water front stage.
Gathering around the fire, guests’ gaze focused onto the orange glowing metal barrel. With Suzanne’s sign, the lid comes off, She and her colleagues starting to clamp bowl-shaped clay pieces into the barrel. Their faces are lit by the heat—1000 degrees, they action slow and concentrated. That kind of focus draw the audiences closer, as if all sharing the same breath. After a couple minutes of burning, those clay bowls are ready to come out. They are carefully transferred into three empty barrels and topped with dried grass. Lids on, the high temperature from the bowl will light the grass, creating black smock inside the barrels, soon the space inside will deprive of oxygen, and the air pressure will push those smock into the clay—now almost transferred into glazed ceramic. When the lids are open again, those clay bowls have went through a transformation to darkened shells. Though the process isn’t complete yet, and the stage is now moved into the barn…..
Read the entire recap here.