This year the Grizedale Arts curatorial project were invited by Frieze London to create a central installation at the fair, the result of which was the Colosseum of the Consumed, a large, double-tiered structure designed by Chinese artists the Yangjiang Group. Over the four days of Frieze, the colosseum – intended to be a model of a cricket pavilion – was used as, amongst other things, a cake surgery theatre, a dining room, a viewing gallery and a performance space. The colosseum’s periphery was flanked by booths run by arts and community projects, including myvillages.org serving up horse milk (which smells of hay and tastes of milk-flavoured water), Birmingham’s Eastside Projects selling bread and biscuits containing artists’ messages, and House of Ferment offering live fermented pickles from three continents.
Based at Lawson Park farm above the Coniston Valley in the Lake District, Grizedale Arts manage a working farm, as well as a programme of events, projects, residencies and community activities, all to encourage a broadening approach to contemporary art. They do not have a gallery space, and one of their aims is to reintroduce the idea of use-value into aesthetic discourse, to which end they often incorporate food and food production into their projects. “Food demonstrates our philosophy of art,” Grizedale Deputy Director Alistair Hudson tells us. “Art should be something that is every day, ordinary, for everybody; to be consumed on a habitual basis rather than being a luxury good or a rarefied thing. With food, basically it's about the quality of the aesthetic experience, so we’ve often found you get a better response than with the arcane language of the art system.”
"Food demonstrates our philosophy of art. Art should be something that is every day, ordinary, for everybody; to be consumed on a habitual basis rather than being a luxury good or a rarefied thing."
Throughout Frieze, Grizedale hosted special events and dinners, all to raise money to build a new cricket pavilion in the village of Coniston. Highlights included a ‘red meal’ for red-headed curators, prepared by Margot Henderson, a vermin flora and fauna dinner from Sam Clark of Moro – featuring squirrel, honey fungus and Canada goose – an ‘enhanced’ Harvest Supper cooked by chef Simon Rogan of L’Enclume and Roganic, and a curator cake ‘autopsy’ by artist Bedwyr Williams (at which the cadaver was enjoyed by guests, along with a cup of tea). On the last day of Frieze London, Grizedale hosted a day-long public Harvest lunch, where we enjoyed a simple but delicious meal of roasted hogget (12-24-month-old lamb), cooked beetroot, heritage tomato salad, and cubes of meat cut from a 280 kilo mortadella, which took four men to lift.
Despite using food as a theme and material in their projects, Hudson cautions against turning it into a precious commodity – a trend he sees happening across both the art and culinary worlds. “You have to be careful about the fetishisation of food,” he says. “’Foodiness’ is a bit like the way the art world operates, and we're advocating for a different understanding of aesthetics. One with a framework that includes a re-reading of art based on how you use it, which ultimately gives you better value in terms of how art is understood in broader society.”
Also… We recently had a quick meal over at Death by Burrito, the contemporary Mexican kitchen at Catch 22 nightclub in Shoreditch, run by Rebel Dining Society's Shay Ola and mixologist Ryan Chetiyawarda (Purl and 69 Colebrook Row). Despite the name of the venture, we recommend the braised cheek tacos, which were a better vehicle than the burrito for letting the marinade flavour and spice come through. It was lovely to have exceptionally fresh tomatoes, proper soft tortilla shells, and a well-cooked fish taco – which is a rare commodity in London. DBB is already proving a popular spot, and we look forward to revisiting after they've had a few months to settle in and get all their recipes down pat (the menu is still a little inconsistent – e.g. the guacamole could use more of a kick—but it’s promising). Oh, and the tequila cocktails are delish, especially the Taqueria Toreador, a slushy of Jose Cuervo, apricot, lime, celery seed and agave nectar.
Text by Ananda Pellerin