Direktorenhaus, Berlin – Taste Festival

Direktorenhaus - Taste Festival, Curated Programme

Curated: Katja Kleiss &Pascal Johanssen



Direktorenhaus' Taste Festival caught my attention because it was one of the first serious art centres that I had seen who were devoting serious multidisciplinary programming for a contemporary exhibition focused solely on the 'sense of taste'. As a newly forged institute for art & design in Berlin (an exceptionally competitive city for contemporary art programming), Directors Kleiss and Johanssen asserted themselves onto the scene with a festival that not only conjured up emotionally rich exhibitions, but ones that were also very interactive. In addition to this move towards sensuality, away from heavily visually-dependent installations, the directors bridged the space between the food movements  and a young contemporary arts audience. 

The success of the exhibition laid in its elevation of the subject matter of 'Taste', more-so than on the conceptual development of the curatorial theme. The programming itself lacked the sharp edge that could have galvanised the permanence of the theme, with the walk-away conviction that the artistic exploration of the chemical senses is nothing more than a Zeitgeist resurgence of the Symbolist fascination for the ethereal. In this regard, although Direktorenhaus elevated a deserving conversation in contemporary art (revisiting the validity of the chemical senses in art), it did it a disservice by failing to penetrate the subject in any meaningful way. The logistic coordination of the programme was haphazard and chaotic. My presentation, the only scholarly lecture in the programme, was delayed by two hours, shifted to a different room than that in the programme, and plagued with technical difficulties with the set-up of the projector for a simple Powerpoint presentation. Finally, I presented my lecture in the midst of another event; a sort of awkward intruder in the limelight of another presenter. In spite of these obstacles, a small but determined audience managed to hunt down my lecture and were forced to stand on the sides of the exhibition space, owing to the other presentation that were already in the room. I was not disappointed by my fade from focus; rather, emboldened by the impassioned and intelligent exchanges with the few that came for my lecture. 

The outcome of this experience was that I realised that the practical positioning of the chemical senses in contemporary art is still in its infancy; on the side of the curators and their institutions, content providers (artists and designers), and the comprehension of the audience to have an informed conversation on the matter. The lack of awareness concerning the chemical senses within both art institutions and in the public is the most important reason why the subject is not of greater importance. For most, the chemical senses are poorly understood and their influence on our larger physical and emotional well-being are under-considered. This context empowers the argument for scientific knowledge to lay the foundation for the appreciation of the chemical senses in art; only then will a mature conversation be possible between artists, curators and their audiences.      

Lecture Excerpt

Title: Can Art be Tasted? an analogue sense in a digital art world

Conceptual cuisine is transforming gastronomy from an expression with analogue characteristics into a ‘digital’ medium where flavour and form are more flexibly designed – equipped with powerful new culinary tools, our imagination is now our greatest constraint.   Critical theory has excluded taste/flavour as a medium for communicating artistic values and concepts, but is this exclusion still valid in light of contemporary practice in art, science and gastronomy? This talk examines classical arguments against the sense of taste in art and explores efforts to construct new theory for “tasted art”.  








Taste Festival 2012, Direktorenhaus, Berlin, Germany




















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