European Cultural Congress – Wrocław, Poland

 

Congress of Culture 2011
Oskar Dawicki, Poland - performance artist
Agata Siwiak, Poland - curator 

 

Overview

The European Congress of Culture was the centrepiece project for Poland's presidency of the European Union Council.  Poland's Minister of Culture and National Heritage entrusted the National Audiovisual Institute with the preparation and implementation of the National Cultural Program of the Polish Presidency, while the Adam Mickiewicz Institute was tasked with preparing and implementing a program of international cultural events. The program highlighted the role of the arts in shaping civil society and creativity in culture, as well as ostensibly remote fields such as the economy and industry. The stage was shared with the likes of Zygmunt Bauman, Mirosław Bałka, Zbigniew Libera, Krzysztof Penderecki and other giants in their respective fields.

Oskar Dawicki's performance, A Treatise on the Anatomy of Bad Taste (2011), which I developed conceptually and logistically in partnership with him, facilitated by curators Sebastian Cichocki and Łukasz Ronduda, Museum of Modern Art, Warsaw, became the centre stage performance on the opening night of the Congress. 

 

Project Description

Excerpt from the paper, The Sense of Taste in Art: a pregnancy of possibilities

One example of an artwork that communicates by way of the chemical senses is a performance piece by Polish artist, Oskar Dawicki. In his performance, A Treatise on the Anatomy of Bad Taste (2011), Dawicki intended to make a statement about his dissatisfaction with the relationship between artists and art business. At a gathering of art industry professionals during the 2011 European Congress of Culture in Wroclaw, Poland, Oskar presented what could be understood as a contemporary version of the “cold shoulder”[1]. An elegant white banquet table was presented on a black stage, laden with beautiful party food. Oskar opened the performance with a vodka toast (as is traditional in Poland) made from an infusion with meat - an introduction to a banquet of distaste. Attractive waiters passed beautiful, but distasteful food to the guests, with each morsel compounding the distaste of the last. Paul Rozin explains that the emotion of disgust represents an internal boundary that separates the cultured human from its animalistic nature (Rozin, 1997); in the case of Dawicki’s work, the participants celebrated their regression into bestiality – playfully taking pleasure in violating this boundary while demonstrating that the social etiquette of group behaviour, for the most part, trumps individual preference.

In the example of Diwicki’s work, the chemical senses were employed to communicate a very effective critical comment in a way that may not have been equally achieved by the other senses. In contrast to Barbara Smith's, A Ritual Meal, where sound and vision were used to evoke unsavoury food associations, Dawicki hides the potency of his critique within the beautifully aesthetic packaging of cuisine – leaving the chemical senses to deliver the conceptual blow.

 

Footnotes

[1] While accounts of the origins of this expression vary, one explanation is that cold meat cuts from a roasted shoulder of mutton were served to houseguests as a way of indicating that they had overstayed their welcome.

 

Findings

Both the collaboration and the performance were a success, with the outcome being a high-profile performance art piece by a respected artists on an internationally respected stage. My principle aim, to produce a piece of artwork that utilised the chemical senses to deliver its conceptual message, was successful; meanwhile, Oskar Dawicki's conceptual aim (which was different to mine) was achieved in tandem and without impediment. 

The only unfortunate element was that the execution of the food aspects of the project was handed off to local chefs for the purpose of the banquet. At the time, I was relocating to India, so while I had developed the menu (see videos below) I was unable to oversee food production for the Congress. The result was that the local chefs tasked with the brief took excessive liberties in the food preparation. My idea was to make the flavours in the canapes distastful, rather than disgusting, where consuming the canapes would have a compounding effect as participants ate more. This would have added an air of class and refinery to the event. What happened was that the local chefs worked to make the food disgusting, altering the original recipes in rather consequential ways. 

Although the overall effect of the artistic concept was realised, this error illustrated the importance of overseeing the entirety of the project execution in person. I do not blame the chefs, they did the best that they could given the circumstances; however, the execution could have been improved upon.

 

More Reading

Oskar Dawicki
http://artmuseum.pl/pl/filmoteka/praca/dawicki-oskar-telezakupy; http://culture.pl/en/artist/oskar-dawicki

Łukasz Ronduda
http://monoskop.org/%C5%81ukasz_Ronduda

Sebastian Cichocki
http://www.curators-network.eu/database/db_item/id/sebastian_cichocki

Museum of Modern Art, Warsaw
http://artmuseum.pl/en/muzeum

 

Concept Development & Design

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Performance

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Project Development Videos  

 

 

 

Oskar Dawicki to Ryan Bromley

hello
Im Oskar Dawicki and I got your e-address from L.Ronduda
he told me you know everything about the bitter taste
I would like to know it too ...
that would a pleasure to meet you and talk about it
I have heard you coming to warsaw next month ???

best wishes
oskar

 

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Ryan to Oskar

Hi Oskar,

Thanks for your note.

I spoke briefly about your project with Lukasz during his recent visit to London.  I am interested in being involved with artistic projects that utilize taste as a principle medium for the communication of abstract ideas.  It sounds like your idea regarding "broken food" is such a project and I would love to hear more about it.

I will be in Waw; perhaps we could have a few drinks and see how we get on. Let me know what works best for you.  

Looking forward to your reply.

Best,


Ryan

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Oskar to Ryan

Wonderful
I will be in Warsaw the week you coming
We have to meet !
I got an invitation for the Congress of European Culture (in Wroclaw,  south Poland)
I would love to make there sort of a biter refreshment and maybe vodka  of meat??
maybe you would like to join me ???
 Let's meet and talk!
I have no mobile and the same to you e-mail is the safest
see you in Warsaw

best regards
oskar

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Ryan to Oskar

Dear Oskar,

We are in Sadyba, perhaps you know a good place to meet?

It just so happens that I have recently come across a recipe for meat vodka.  I will bring it along with me, as well as a few ideas regarding a bitter refreshment. It will be great to talk more about your concept and to see how I am able to help. I will be moving to New Delhi, so it might be tough for me to make it to.  I would be very happy to help as much as I can, regardless.

Looking forwards to meeting you...best wishes,

Ryan

 Ryan to Oskar

 

 

Ho Oskar,

I'm just writing to follow up on my last email; did it come through OK this time? 


We are off to India; if you would like me to develop any of the recipe concepts that I have presented to you then I need to start as soon as is possible.  I do not know what my kitchen facilities will be in India but I do know that we will be living out of a hotel for the initial period of our stay.  The best would be if I took a few days before I left to work out recipes and to document the process. 

I hope that you are well and life for you is, if nothing else, amusing.  All the best,

Ryan

Ryan to Oskar

 

 

Hi Oskar,

Thank you for your patience, life is in fast forward at the moment.

I am including a selection of canapés for your consideration in addition to the "meat Vodka" recipe. The meat vodka can utilise any choice of meat that you desire, however, something smoked would probably provide the best flavour.  As mentioned before, some sort of meat should be included in the martini/shot glass during service, as it would be very difficult for a participant to discern the flavour of the drink without a visual aid.  This could be a piece of sausage of bacon, but the lower the fat content the better.  There is little point in fat-washing the vodka only to reintroduce grease at the end of the recipe.  This would result in a greasy coating in the mouth after the drink is consumed (unless this is something that you would like to include as an element in your art).

For the remaining canapés, if you select the ones that you would like to include in the event then I will product test them and develop workable recipes for your chef to follow.  There are some logistical considerations involved in this and I have done my best to include recipes that will not require any cooking at the point of service (Mise en Place), however, refrigeration may be required. Also, seasonality is an issue, as some ingredients that are available now may not be available in September.  If you select an item with a seasonal ingredient then I think it a very good idea to do an initial preparation of ingredients and then to freeze them, rather than trying to source hard-to find ingredients immediately prior to their service. Some of this will depend on when your chef will begin working and her access to a kitchen and a freezer. In a pinch, we can always substitute suitable ingredients closer to their service so, not to worry.

The technical elements of preparation of this sort of food is a bit tricky as it requires preserving tastes that are normally expunged, as such, I will need a few days to work out any kinks in the recipes before handing them off to your chef. I will also build the canapes and provide photo/video support for you, if this is helpful. It will also be a good idea for me to stay in regular contact with your chef so that we can work out any problems that might arise.  I am also able to assist on the final presentation of these dishes but much will be limited by what is available in the area. Will your chef be cooking in the area of the exhibition prior to its service or will everything be transported from Warsaw?

I have tried to keep the menu as simple as possible to prepare. Also, if you would like to use a specific ingredient or conceptual element then I will happily offer suggestions.  Please let me know your thoughts: 

Recommended menu

Meat Vodka
100% dark chocolate truffles with citrus pith (could be rolled in nuts or with gold leaf for variety)
Soured milk panna cotta with fizzy berries (berries could be substituted for Campari jelly)

Other options
Green walnut and Gorgonzola with pansy flower garnish on burnt croute
Campari and rose-hip jellies with citrus pith and gold leaf
Bitter melon cups with quince (pigwa) salsa 
Bitter-leaf salad and edible flower rolls in grilled courgettes 
Crab apple sorbet with jasmine blossom (could also be cranberries) - would leave with a sour/bitter taste in the mouth


Fat-washed Vodka (taken from Bompass & Parr)
   
6 rashers of smoky bacon
200ml/7 Fl. Oz Vodka

Fry the bacon and let it cool on kitchen paper, then add it to the vodka in a sealed plastic container.  Place the container in a dark cupboard for about 2 weeks, or until you get bored.  Move the container to the freezer. The fat will freeze, but the vodka will not. Filter the bacon vodka through coffee filters. This will keep indefinitely.

* multiply recipe depending on how much is required.  Probably a good idea to test it prior to using large volumes of vodka.



I hope that all is well for you in Waw and I look forward to your reply.

All best wishes,


Ryan

Hi Marcin,

I have been given your contact information by Oskar Dawicki, who I believe you have been in touch with.  I have been working with Oskar on the cuisine elements for his upcoming project in Wroclaw and hope to stay in touch with you, who I understand will be cooking these creations.

I have worked out a menu for Oskar and am now in the process of testing out the canapés in order that I might hand off the recipes to you.  It would be good to have a chat to learn what your facilities and background are so that we are on the same page.  The canapés are pretty easy but two of them will require advanced preparation.  They are as follows (I will include complete documentation for all the pieces):

  • Meat Vodka (advanced prep)
  • Bitter salad with edible flower in grilled courgette rolls with sour citrus dressing
  • Gorgonzola, green walnut (or crab apple) on burnt croute
  •  Sour milk panna cotta with fizzy berries (advanced prep)
  • 100% dark chocolate truffles with citrus zest and gold leaf

Perhaps you could drop me an email and we can go from there.

Looking forward to hearing from you and exploring the possibilities of this project together.

All best wishes,

Ryan

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Hi Ryan,

 

I’m sorry it took me so long to get back to you.

I’ve been invited to cooperate on Oskars project by Agata Siwiak, so far the only information I have got from her and I haven’t been in touch with Oskar yet.

 

I will ‘deintroduce’ myself shortly – I’m not a cook, though I’ve been working for years in food/art/entertainment.

I will introduce what I can do - I have restaurant facilities and team of creative and skilled cooks who worked with me for years, and I trust that given intentions and instructions we can provide what you and Oskar expect.

 

Looking forward to hear more on your creations,

 

Ale the best,

 

Marcin

 

-------

Hi,

Thanks for your emai; it's great to have occassion to work wth food
people in Poland!

I'm typing from my phone at the moment and the buttons are very small,
so let me give you more information, about myself and what Oskar has
spoken with me, tomorrow.

As far as logistics go, I have made specs of the four canapes to be
served and have done video clips of the whole thing. They are really
very easy pieces but they (can) look good and have a strong effect.
Wish I could say the same for my videos.

I'll brief in full tomorrow before I fly off to India on Sat.

All best wishes,

 

Ryan

 

Ryan to Oskar

Hi Oskar,

 
I'm just off to the airport in about 30 minutes but I wanted to send this content to you before I head off.  This is video instructions for how to make the canapes discussed in our previous conversation.  I have some photos as well but I simply don't have time at the moment to send them.  I will send the photos as soon as I can, which I believe will give you a better final look at the concept.  From here you can make any changes that you feel you would like to.  
 
I have exchange brief introductory emails with your chef team in Wraclaw but I need to follow up a little bit more with them; I think that this content should help to get the ball rolling.  I would love to hear your thoughts as to how this fits your imaginings for the concept.  YYou can also make notes on the video youtube pages; might be a good way to exchange ideas.  I still need to label and describe the videos and will do so when I get settled in Delhi.  
 
Overall, the concepts worked.  If I had to make one comment it would be to not overpower the canapes.  I think that they work better when they are not so disgusting that they need to be spat out (as there will be no facilities as such, unless you in intend to provide spittoons?). As this was a first run at it I think that I would tone down the strength of both the truffle and the panna cotta.  As you will see in the video, the panna cotta was modified for health and logistic reasons.  I made a sour panna cotta using split yoghurt and then salted it heavily.  The panna cotta recipe is very versatile and could easily adjusted to include a different flavour, such as garlic or ?... All in all, the canapes are easy to make, cheap, and successful for the purpose intended.  It's a good starting place.
 
Here is the link to the video playlist.  There should be 27 (?) videos placed in numbered order...I looking forward to hearing your thoughts.
 
 
All the very best,
 
 
Ryan
 
 
**Marcin...sorry for the delay in my reply.  As you may have gathered, here is a link to video content with instructions for the likely food elements.  I did not make a spec for the meat vodka, as the recipe is straight forward and there was no time.  I will send concept notes, descriptions and photos when I get settled in India.  This should at least give you some insights into what will be involved.  I think that the service decking and presentation will be an important part of this project and we can discuss as we go along. Looking forward to having some good exchange on this. BW, Ryan
 
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Oskar to Ryan
 
Looks great
really 
I love dramaturgy of it also 
It is classic I mean  It makes sense to start to talk about beauty again...
big thanks to your son, he is a tough guy!!!
Recording is another thing... it is a really stuff  for another project ... Charisma would be maybe the right world ? No shit man...  if we succeed this time..? You will see...
I entirely agree , it shouldn't be too awful... to keep it in one's mouth "until the end" this is the goal !
and it should looks as tasty as possible ...
with the suitable  drink it will be accomplished (waiting for vodka instruction - don't engage your son this time)
big big thanks Ryan 
I am more then glad
I hope the man from Wroclaw I mean my "chef" is abel  to repeat it..
Did he write anything to you?
anyway 
it was great job
hope your exam was a pice of cake ( not panna cotta ) and you safely settled in new place
wish you no too much journey straits  
please let me know "when you are at home"
big hug
oskar
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Ryan to Oskar
 
Heya,

Right now I'm sandwiched in a sleeper compartment of a train en route
to Rajisthan. Beds are stacked 3 high, so you can't sit up. I also
don't recommend it.

I agree that FTP would be best; the problem is that I don't have an
internet connection here, the embassy is a secured msz connection, and
connections here are charged on usage and are very slow.  It would
probably be faster for me to walk the pen drive over to you.

In essense, it has already been ftp'ed...to youtube. If you select the
HD version of the film and have the right software it will be the same
as a normal ftp. I can look at it again when I get back on monday and
offer some suggestions for download.

The dude on the bottom bunkbed just let out a huge burp...nice.

Ciao for now,  R
Ryan to Oskar 
Hey Oskar,
 
So, how did it go?  Was thinking about you all day.
Hope everything went as you hoped.
 
I just got an invitation to speak at an RCA conference so I might try to make a trip through Poland at the same time.  Hope that we can connect.  
 
Looking forward to hearing about the event and seeing the documentation.
 
All my very best,
 
 
 
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Oskar to Ryan
 
hey Brother
People say it was good
nobody spew
I will tell you all details
Im still out of Warsaw
Im in polish mountains
Im your debtor dr. Bromley
big big hug
o
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Ryan to Oskar
 
Hi Oskar,
 
Thanks for this link...could you tell me a little about what you felt worked, didn't work, from your perspective?
 
Were you happy with the way the food looked? Tasted?
 
Did the video finally work? How much of it was shown?
 
What was the audience response?
 
What was your initial intent in this project (in regards of concept communication)? Was this realised? How?
 
Did you also make video footage of the event? If so, would I be able to see it at some point?
 
I know I have a lot of questions but I'm very curious about how everything happened; I have not yet heard any details from your performance beyond what was available on-line. Any summary information will be helpful for my work. I look forward to hearing from you, in your time.  
 
In friendship,
 
 
Ryan
 
------
Ryan to Oskar 
 
Hey RyanThanks for your last mail! 
 
I really mean it!
 
till now I have got only this:
 
 
Sorry...
 
Next week they promised me to send the rest (high resolution I hope) 
 
I have one tape (mini dv) but I dont have a camera... So... waiting for possibility to look at it...
 
hug
o