Time Out Singapore: Edible Art Movement

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

A treasure trove of scents. Image courtesy of Edible Art Movement.

A treasure trove of scents. Image courtesy of Edible Art Movement.

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!

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Time Out Singapore: Haegue Yang

Born in South Korea and based in Berlin, Haegue Yang, 42, is the first artist to participate in STPI Gallery’s new initiative Platform Projects, which hopes to raise awareness of contemporary art in Singapore. In this exhibition, Yang tickles our various senses by incorporating local spices and other food items into her works. She tells Gwen Pew what it’s like to play with food.

South Korean artist created works using local food and spices during her residency at STPI. Image courtesy of the artist.

South Korean artist created works using local food and spices during her residency at STPI. Image courtesy of STPI Gallery.

8 Oct 2013: ‘I was fascinated by Singapore’s diverse culture in general, and the variety of exotic foods and spices that are readily available at the market here is simply inspiring. I discovered these items as I went on small field trips to various places in Singapore, so incorporating these materials in my production at STPI just happened more or less spontaneously. I am always in search of new materials as a sculptor and I felt it was especially important to let myself be inspired by the place during my residency at STPI. It is astounding how much these everyday elements are able to convey – they reference a broader history, encompassing their origins from an evolved civilisation to contemporary life. In this instance, they reflect Singapore’s diverse population and colonial history as a commercial port city of South-East Asia. I was humbled by the materials and wanted to create something simple yet significant with them.

‘The process varies in terms of its execution. In the group of works under ‘Embossed Prints and Juice Dyes’ (pictured), slices of various vegetables, untreated spices and herbs were pressed into fresh paper pulp to create small bumps and unevenness on the surface. It was a relatively simple and direct process. It likens to what we know from our childhood days of creating prints using chopped vegetables.

‘However, not every item we tried printed successfully due to their different consistencies, so we had to constantly test various vegetables to produce the desired work. Another challenge for us was realising that natural juice from pressed vegetables easily fades. I learnt that one had to simply accept this ephemeral nature. The natural product and the questions around it positively challenged me. ‘It was very meaningful to work in Singapore, since my production has taken place mainly in Europe in the last two decades. I loved the hot and humid weather, and the evening breeze with night food. I can almost feel that when I look at these works. I hope viewers can feel that Singaporean air and smell, and sense the joy and melancholia that I, as a visitor and outsider, brought to my works.’

Time Out Singapore: Five Best Cooking Schools

From mastering tofu to rolling sushi, Natasha Hong and Gwen Pew round up the best cooking schools around town.

Happy faces at Cookyn Inc. Image courtesy of Cookyn Inc.

Happy faces at Cookyn Inc. Image courtesy of Cookyn Inc.

16 Aug 2013:

Best for group cooking

Cookyn Inc

Billing itself as an events company with cooking classes as its main mode of business, as opposed to a full-on cooking school, Cookyn Inc near Farrer Park MRT is all about encouraging people to get together and bond as a team through food.

Set up by fine dining chef Mervyn Phan four years ago, the company has since organised over 500 cooking sessions for its clients, corporate and private. It’s catered more for private events, so there aren’t scheduled cooking classes you can pay to attend. Instead, speak to their consultants about organising a Cookyn Inc Social Party that’s ideal for groups of ten to 20 friends to celebrate a birthday, reunion or a tame hen party.

The three-and-a-half-hour customised class (from $100/per person) includes a tutorial and a hands-on execution of simple, customised recipes that require a team to work together to complete, plus free-flow non-alcoholic drinks and finally, a sit-down meal with wine.

221 Rangoon Rd (6748 4848, www.cookyn-inc.com). From $100/person.

Best for the health conscious

The Little Green Café

When former-lawyer-turned- chef Shalu Asnani returned from a four-year stint teaching vegetarian cooking in Beijing in 2011, she decided that she wanted to continue her passion in Singapore – and so The Little Green Café was born. Each individual class usually lasts around three hours and sees students make three dishes in a particular cuisine or style (such as Thai, Festive, tapas or 30-minute meals), as well as pick up skills on preparation, balancing flavours, cooking, serving and presentation.

Asnani recommends that students sign up at least a week or two in advance, especially since classes like Indian Cuisine and Mastering Tofu fill up very quickly. Classes are kept to a maximum of six people so that everyone can get a more hands-on experience, but private classes for special occasions are also available.

And don’t worry if you’re a die-hard carnivore – Asnani’s fantastic recipes will certainly convince you that greens aren’t always mean.

1 Hacienda Grove, Upper East Coast Rd (9763 1483, www.littlegreencafe.com.sg). From $75.

Best for fine dining techniques

My Private Pantry

Eating out at fine-dining restaurants may not be for everyone’s wallets – so My Private Pantry is the go-to place for learning how to replicate the fancy cuisine from your favourite restaurant in your own kitchen.

Tapping on their black book of industry friends, owners Crystal Chua and chef Stephan Zoisl organise advanced cooking and food prep classes conducted by the Fat Duck-trained Zoisl and well-known professional chefs like Deliciae Group executive chef Damien Le Bihan, Gattopardo chef/owner Lino Sauro and Peranakan cuisine extraordinaire, Violet Oon. Cooking demonstrations span a wide range of cuisines and techniques, from Italian to Spanish and Modernist. Prices start from $28 for a lunchtime demo with tasting plates, to $188 for a practical session at My Private Pantry’s kitchen (decked out with top-of-the-line appliances from Gaggenau, Bosch and Silit) on the sleepy Tras Street.

Setting themselves apart from other cooking schools, My Private Pantry also conducts market-to-kitchen classes ($188). Tutored by Oon and Eric Low, they allow participants to watch the chefs in their element at a local wet market, before schooling them on Singaporean dishes like hokkien mee, chicken rice or bubor cha cha.

61 Tras St (6224 4050, myprivatepantry.sqsp.com). $28-$188.

Best for sushi lovers

Tokyo sushi academy Singapore

Following the success of its school in Japan, Tokyo Sushi Academy was launched in Singapore in April this year, aiming to teach both professional and beginner chefs the intricate – and delicious – art of Japanese cuisine.

An intensive course that spans a period of up to four weeks costs between $2,000 and $2,400, and students can learn everything from preparing rice to the proper way of handling various knives. But for those who just want to try their hand at sushi-making, the one-off leisure classes are probably more suitable and affordable – choose from their hands-on nigiri sushi, ‘art rolls’ and hot dishes classes, which cost $90 to $180.

An evening class targeted at office workers also just started last month and costs $60. All classes are currently taught in English by Junichi Asano, a professional chef who spent over 15 years in Europe as master chef of the Japanese Embassy.

#B2-17 Chinatown Point, 133 New Bridge Rd (6444 7828, www.sushiacademy.sg). $60-$2,400.

Best for casual cooks

ToTT

Housed in one of Asia’s largest kitchen supplies stores is the Tools of The Trade’s (ToTT) Cooking Studio, which features 12 Gaggenau and Bosch-fitted counters, the schedule here is a wide and varied range of hands-on and sometimes brand-endorsed demonstration classes that teach anything from everyday healthy cooking to exotic cuisines and faddish desserts like rainbow cheesecakes.

Chef instructors are picked for their smarts in imparting their skills to novice or enthusiast budding chefs, and include names like The Prime Society’s executive chef Dallas Cuddy in ToTT’s packed schedule of weekday and weekend morning and afternoon classes.

#01-01A Sime Darby Centre, 896 Dunearn Rd (6219 7077, www.tottstore.com). $38-$168.