Olafur Eliasson shows Ryan Gander the art of lunch

The Berlin-based artist explains to Gander and BBC TV viewers how cookery helps make him creative
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Ryan Gander and Olafur Eliasson, on the BBC's Artsnight. Image courtesy of BBC.com
Ryan Gander and Olafur Eliasson, on the BBC's Artsnight. Image courtesy of BBC.com

When Ryan Gander visited fellow artist Olafur Eliasson in Berlin for the BBC’s Artsnight programme, they didn’t discuss sculpture or installation, the art market or even their respective places within the gallery system. Instead, they talked about food.

“As part of the studio day Olafur’s staff gather together for a communal lunch,” Gander explained, as he introduced Eliasson on the show the format of which was, in part, inspired by our new book.

This group meal for Eliasson and his 100 or so staff is no simple act of refueling. As Olafur told Gander, at these group vegetarian meals, “everyone is equal,” and “it has a great influence over the rest of the house.”

 

An image from Studio Olafur Eliasson: In the kitchen
An image from Studio Olafur Eliasson: In the kitchen

Yet could the very act of cooking and eating together help uncover the essence of creativity? Gander’s TV programme set out to describe the ways in which everyday life can be filled with creative acts - lunch included.

Eliasson is a world-renowned, award-winning artist, perhaps best known in Britain for his 2003 installation at the Tate Modern, The Weather Project. However, he sees the simple act of preparing food as an equally creative one.

 

An image from Studio Olafur Eliasson: In the kitchen
An image from Studio Olafur Eliasson: In the kitchen

“Creativity is not in the object made,” he told Gander. “Creativity is in how it arrived here in the first place. So in some senses we could say that creativity is in the consequences.”

To illustrate his point, he moves on to his studio kitchen. “When we cook, the question I would like to ask is: Is the creative potential actually in the consequence of cooking? Do you succeed in your cooking with some sensitivity towards the climate, or with some recognition of the people who’ve been driving that food throughout Europe, harvesting it, and so on. How did that particular salad come to you in the middle of the winter? Creativity is not about the weird, great-looking, disconnected stuff, it’s about how do we feel connected in our world.”

 

An image from Studio Olafur Eliasson: In the kitchen
An image from Studio Olafur Eliasson: In the kitchen

That's an enlightening way to look at a kale risotto or a red pepper and rice casserole, though no less than you might expect from Eliasson (or Gander for that matter).

You can watch the clip here; and you can try a little of this creativity at home, by ordering a copy of Studio Olafur Eliasson: The Kitchen, a collection of over 100 vegetarian recipes for the home cook from his studio kitchen, including guest submissions by such star chefs as René Redzepi and Alice Waters.


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