CHICAGO and PITTSBURGH: Enemy Kitchen meets Conflict Kitchen

Michael Rakowitz's Enemy Kitchen, which I wrote about here in March, has been an actively evolving, ongoing part of his practice since 2006. He has conducted Enemy Kitchen workshops and small events in many cities, documents the project on his website, and often includes it when giving presentations about his work (which he does well, and often). The project has also been widely discussed in blog posts, news articles, and critical reviews of Michael's work ranging from SF Gate to the Guardian to to Gastronomica to Afterall. All this is to say that Enemy Kitchen is a well-honed project that has a substantial presence in public and in print, and is especially well known within the community of artists involved in socially engaged public practice.

So I was surprised to learn that a group of artists based in Pittsburgh has taken on Michael's concept and presented it as their own under a very similar title. True, their project, Conflict Kitchen, is different in a few ways. Their endeavor is open to the public every weekend as an extension of the media/art/food project Waffle Shop, and it takes on a wider swath of "enemies"--any country with which the US is in conflict. But from the beginning Michael has spoken about Enemy Kitchen as framework within which to address multiple national conflicts past and present, including those in Vietnam and Afghanistan. And he has long talked about transforming Enemy Kitchen into a restaurant. For over two years he and I have been discussing the possibility of developing the Enemy Kitchen workshops into a pop-up restaurant for Feast. That idea has morphed into a plan to create a portable and very sculptural food cart that would serve Iraqi food, perhaps prepared by local Iraqi cooks and served by Iraq War veterans, using serving dishes copied from lost serving platters and other objects looted the Iraq National Museum. (The latter would extend Michael's project The Invisible Enemy Should Not Exist.)

Now to a degree it seems silly to get into a debate about origins--inspiration takes many forms, and it's possible that the Pittsburgh artists came up with the idea for Conflict Kitchen on their own. And it's certainly lovely that this concept is circulating so widely, since one of Michael's basic intentions with Enemy Kitchen is to promote critical awareness and intercultural tolerance. If more people get access to a project like this and find it satisfying and potentially even transformative--all the better. But now that the similarities between these projects are being aired, the creators of Conflict Kitchen have an opportunity--if not an obligation--to initiate a conversation with Michael, as others have done when they were inspired to perform iterations of Enemy Kitchen within their own communities.



About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Stephanie Smith published on July 19, 2010 8:18 PM.

CHICAGO: Updates and Michael Rakowitz (Return and Enemy Kitchen) was the previous entry in this blog.

Reintroducing the Feast Blog is the next entry in this blog.

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This is an informal curatorial research blog for Feast: Radical Hospitality in Contemporary Art, an exhibition about the meal as a medium for contemporary artists. The exhibition opens at the University of Chicago’s Smart Museum of Art in February 2012.