August 24, 2007

Adrià, the Reluctant Traveler?

I do honestly and sincerely believe that Ferran Adrià, renowned chef of El Bulli, is an artist. His creations are so otherworldly, creative and ethereal at times that it is hard to remember that they are also deliciously edible and not just sculptural feats of greatness. That being said, I just cannot get over his "contribution" to the documenta contemporary art exhibition which, in a word, I think is lame.
To quote the El Bulli press release, "When (the curator of the documenta) Roger Buergel invited Ferran Adrià, he became the first cook in the history of haute cuisine to participate in Documenta..."
This is significant. It is a move to expand the world of art past what we traditionally think of as art (photography, sculpture, painting) and to accept that artistic design can flourish in different formats. I was excited. I thought, "this is it, cooking as an art form recognized on the scale of world class contemporary art", and I booked my tickets to Germany to attend this exposition that only takes place every five years.
Ferran Adriá however, must have forgotten to book his tickets because he wasn´t there!
Nor was there any sign of him apart from a little corner on the exposition map designating the different pavilion locations that read, El Bulli, Tarragona, Spain. (But, I just came from Spain!)Rather than coming to the documenta and presenting something, anything - he stayed in El Bulli and declared that his contribution to the event would consist of inviting two guests a day for the duration of the exposition to dine in his restaurant.
Fabulous, so sign me up! Where do I put my raffle ticket? Then I read that it was for two guests a day that would be hand chosen by director Buergal himself, and I heard a rumor that they had to pay for it, not to mention travelling to Spain for it.
So where exactly is the part where ordinary people that have made their hotel, train, plane and automobile reservations and paid their 30 euros entrance fee, get to experience food as art? Or even the possibility of food as art? A mere whiff, a pamphlet poster, photo, catalog, a copy of a menu? I did read today that Adrià made a special menu inspired in the documenta. Too bad you didn´t even HEAR about it at the actual exposition. The article, from the newspaper La Razón (23 Aug.), ends with the line. "Everything in El Bulli is a mystery". They got that right.

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