Founded in the UK in the 1920s to bring art, theatre and food together, the Edible Art Movement makes its first overseas debut here in Singapore at the Affordable Art Fair this month. Gwen Pew speaks to Nicola Anthony (Co-Founder and Chef d’arte), Jane Shishido (Chief Matchmaker and Ingredient Sourcer) and Grace Astari (Identity Mixologist) to find out more about this curious society
12 Nov 2013:
The bio on your website says that the Edible Art Movement combines theatre, art, and food. That’s a pretty unusual mix – can you tell us a bit more about exactly what EAM is about?
We’ve always wanted to build a teleportation machine, to transport us to different times, cultures, realms and imaginary worlds. However, in the process of failing to teleport, we learnt that art and the edible both have the power to transport your mind. Our current-day Edible Art Movement members create spectacular experiences, participatory installations and art happenings to stimulate all five senses. We work from our lively studio (not from a kitchen), and occasionally a science lab. What are we about? High quality contemporary art, but we also seek to create work that is playful, definitely not pretentious, and engages people both inside and outside of the art world. We don’t really create theatre in any traditional sense, although there is a large dose of theatrical spectacle in our installations and we love to encourage our audiences to participate. We must admit, for our upcoming event, a circus influence led us to collaborate with some dancers, which we are very excited about.
Was it really founded in 1920? (That’s an awfully long time ago!) And if so, why is it still relevant today?
Yes, EAM is believed to have been founded in the early 1920s by a group of experimental artists, intellectuals, poets and philosophers. However, much of our history has been passed down the generations through stories and by word of mouth, so it’s quite shrouded in mystery. Of course in the past EAM was a highly secretive movement, until we launched the more contemporary, public version of the Edible Art Movement (which we affectionately call EAM).
Relevancy is very important. Both food and art have the power to connect people, link us to our histories, and help us discover other cultures. Whilst the edible realm is always our starting point, our events are constantly changing and seeking to engage people. Our projects are highly curated, thematic, and based on histories or cultural stories.
Who decided to bring the EAM from London all the way to Singapore, and why?
With roots in Europe, the EAM’s stories indicate a strong influence from Asia – particularly via the Silk Road and then the Silk Route by sea – so it feels very fitting to be working with artists in Asia. We travel for food and art. So we had been looking at Singapore for a while – let’s face it, Singapore is edible heaven. We noticed the power of the hawker centre to bring together old, young, rich and poor… It’s very EAM. When one of our co-founders (of modern-day EAM) relocated her art studio to Singapore, well… it just seemed like the perfect opportunity to start working with local colleagues and artists to create events in South-East Asia.
Who are the EAM members in Singapore currently, and how did you guys get involved?
The behind the scene core EAM team members are Nicola Anthony, Jane Shishido and Grace Astari. It was just one of those spontaneous, yet destined moments when likeminded people happen to be inspired by similar things. We are all involved in the art scene, with cosmopolitan backgrounds, and fascinated by how we engage with food. For the first year we are working with a roster of Singaporean and South-East Asia based artists. However our core team is growing and we aim to initiate some more artist members and core team members by the end of 2015. On top of this, we have an amazing team of volunteers and creative elves, and we work with some fantastic interns from the Lasalle-Goldsmiths course.
You’ll be making your local debut at the Affordable Art Fair – what can we expect to see there?
CIRQUE du SCENT will be an interactive, fragrant, art installation. Unlike anything else at the fair, we will not have a traditional white-cube booth, but a darkened, walk-in installation which houses an archive of the food aromas and curiosities which have inspired great artists throughout history (think Manet’s ‘Le Dejeuner Sur l’Herbe’, or Dali’s ‘Lobster Telephone’). Within this we invited six artists to create their own interpretations of CIRQUE du SCENT, the EAM’s scent archive. Visitors to our booth will be following their senses to get the ultimate EAM experience, and are invited to participate. Meanwhile, we have collaborated with local dance company JSLN, so watch out for the EAM pop-up performances all around the fair, and our fragrant dance performance in the entrance space from 6.30-7.30pm on Arty-Licious evening.
What do you hope to achieve with the works that you’ll be presenting?
We aim to allow people to become part of our installation, and give them an experience they won’t forget. We hope it will be like stepping out of the art fair and into another world. Visitors will see work by the fantastic emerging artist Kenneth Lee, and of course, Eugene Soh aka Dude.SG. We fell in love with Eugene’s iconic photograph, ‘The Last Kopitiam’, which embodies our ethos – history, food, art and cultural references are all woven into this artwork that Singaporeans have taken into their hearts. We have also had lots of fun at the Dragon Kilns and have invited three ceramic artists – Michelle Lim, Tok Yu Xiang and Steven Low Thia Kwang.
One of our key goals is to showcase and work with talented, contemporary, Asia-based creatives. We are thrilled to have already begun this journey and to have worked with inspiring professionals such as Jason Lim who has kindly been EAM’s advisor in selecting the perfect ceramists for CIRQUE du SCENT.
What other projects are in the works at the moment, and what can we expect from you guys in the near future?
We’ve received such a positive response from the creative arts community in Singapore and wider Asia that we are busy lining up an exciting schedule of events for 2014. There is a lot of research, sourcing and concept design that goes into each event – we will be expanding our already very strong team, as well as working with some exciting collaborators and venues. Currently it’s all top secret, but we can say that it may or may not involve the following: three turtles, five miles of noodles, one blue rabbit, an indoor snow fight, a vision of liquorice, the chance to dance, many banquets and a large amount of wine!