From Kitchen To Table with Subodh Gupta

Elizabeth Prendiville of Saffronart shares her experience attending Subodh Gupta’s performance feast “Celebration” at Performa 13.

Subodh Gupta "Celebration" at Performa 13

Subodh Gupta “Celebration” at Performa 13

New York: For the past three months, I have had the opportunity to participate in the Performa Intensive program through New York University. This included researching, assisting and participating in the production process for the well-known, visual art performance biennial under the Founding Director Roselee Goldberg. Throughout the process the most memorable and unique experience has been participating in Subodh Gupta’s piece “Celebration”, both as an aid to the kitchen staff and as a guest. Gupta is well known for his large-scale installations made from everyday objects from the Indian Subcontinent, specifically food containers such as steel tiffin boxes, thali pans and large pails. His work touches on the histories of Duchamp’s readymades, while simultaneously addressing issues of everyday life in India. Sources of inspiration range from politics to social issues. For “Celebration” (held at The Old Bowery Station) Gupta has constructed a massive chandelier made of various sized steel containers and a dazzling collection of light bulbs. The piece embodies the artist’s ability to transform these everyday vessels, while still honoring their place in everyday life. In addition to his spectacular installation, Gupta’s performance focuses on the concept of “feast” and how this event brings individuals together. Eight times throughout the biennial he prepared an elaborate meal for around fifty guests to enjoy, sharing the space with his spectacular chandelier.

Subodh Gupta at Performa 13

Subodh Gupta at Performa 13

Presented with the opportunity to assist in the kitchen for this project I was excited to get to see one of my favorite artists creating something innovative, yet so customary. Gupta’s piece stressed the role that feasting has in every community. Whether it is shared in mourning, happiness or simply togetherness, communal food presents an important element in every culture.  While helping in the kitchen, I was thrilled to see the artist actively involved in every part of the meal. He would be quickly stirring a pot and seconds later run over to direct and interact with the kitchen staff, preparing other elements of the meal. Simultaneously with being involved in the execution of every single part of the meal, Gupta also directed art handlers in the installation of his massive chandelier in the next room. The entire kitchen was buzzing with excitement and energy the way a family home would before a big holiday. Very rarely does one have the opportunity to witness an artist do something (aside from their chosen craft) with the passion and delight that Subodh Gupta expressed while cooking in the Bowery Station space.

"Celebration" by Subodh Gupta. The Old Bowery Station. Taken by Elizabeth Prendiville

“Celebration” by Subodh Gupta. The Old Bowery Station. Taken by Elizabeth Prendiville

Having this behind the scenes experience and actively participating in everything from plating bananas for dessert and drying cups to carrying packs of King Fisher beer into the event space, contributed to my understanding of Gupta’s performance. As a guest I immediately noticed that the space was pulsing with energy. Guests chatted, drank, ate and enjoyed the full sensory experience of “Celebration” from start to finish. As dessert was being served the artist took a moment to speak. He stressed the importance of community feasting in every culture, especially in India. Gupta explained that in Indian communities it is very common to share and serve food for strangers and foster new friendships in this celebratory setting. This was very fitting for the experience we shared as each table was packed with different groups mingling freely. When asked if his family or some other outside source influenced the menu Gupta simply said “I cooked the food I like to eat”. “Celebration” was truly a heartfelt performance that the artist generously shared with everyone in attendance.

"Celebration" by Subodh Gupta. The Old Bowery Station. Taken by Elizabeth Prendiville

“Celebration” by Subodh Gupta. The Old Bowery Station. Taken by Elizabeth Prendiville

Performa 13 runs through November 24th. For more information about artist’s classes, performances and other programming check out the official Performa 13 website here. 

Station to Station: A Nomadic Happening

Kanika Pruthi of Saffronart talks about the upcoming Station to Station project that will transport an array of cultural experiences across the United States – on a moving train!

Station to Station- Main Banner

New York: Station to Station is an upcoming experience organized by artist Doug Aitken presenting an amalgam of shows, cultural interventions and site-specific events.  Slated to begin on September 6 2013, a train will travel across the United States of America, from New York City to San Francisco, making nine stops across the country over a period of three weeks. The train is uniquely designed as a moving installation/sculpture and will broadcast an exclusive experience to its audience. For a few days, the train will host a ‘moving’ experience, literally!

Doug Aitken, widely known for his innovative fine art installations, utilizes a wide array of media and artistic approaches, leading the viewers into a world where time, space, and memory are malleable concepts.

At each stop, Station to Station will curate leading figures from the art, music, culinary, literary, and film worlds for a series of events.  The train designed by Aitkin himself will act like a cultural studio- hosting experiences not only at the scheduled stops but also on the moving train.

The project aims at developing an endowment model for the arts given the recent cuts in funding for cultural programs in the United States. A part of the ticket sales will be utilized to support partner institutions and their programs for the year 2014. Station to Station is being made possible by the support and collaboration of the Levi’s® brand.

Artists scheduled to collaborate to bring Station to Station to life include Kenneth Anger, Olaf Breuning,  Peter Coffin,  Urs Fischer, Meschac Gaba, Liz Glynn, Carsten Holler, Christian Jankowski, Aaron Koblin, Ernesto Neto, Jack Pierson, Stephen Shore, Rirkrit Tiravanija and Lawrence Weiner; musicians Ariel Pink, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Connan Mockasin, Dan Deacon, David Longstreth of Dirty Projectors, Eleanor Friedberger, Nite Jewel, No Age, Savages and Twin Shadow; writers Dave Hickey, Barney Hoskyns and Rick Moody; and chefs Alice Waters and Leif Hedendal, and the Edible Schoolyard Project.

According to Molly Logan, the project’s Executive Producer, “Station to Station hopes that this liquid platform will empower the artists to make work that could not be realized elsewhere; the public to discover new artists and cultural expressions; and the museums to reach a global audience and continue to produce pioneering cultural programming.”

Following the cross-country experience, the project will continue to evolve through the museum program, the release of a documentary and a published book. To read more click here.

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