This may seem like a lot of energy and resources for Eliasson to spend on something tangential to his art practice. But the kitchen is not necessarily separate; in some ways, it’s a part of it. “Sometimes we do these special events where we become very conceptual or ideological or taste-driven,” the artist said. He recalled a recent dinner the team orchestrated in honor of former Irish president Mary Robinson, who now runs a climate justice organization. The team challenged itself to put on a fine dinner for 30 people that also had zero carbon footprint. The menu was made up of primarily raw foods and dishes prepared in a solar-powered sun cooker; the wine was delivered via sailboat. “Obviously, it ended up being very expensive and it had a kind of element of hedonism—kind of crazy in a good way,” Eliasson explained.
The kitchen has also experimented with au courant culinary trends, like fermentation. Things can sometimes get out of hand. “In the beginning, I was excited, but at some point the kitchen just went all in on fermentation, and we literally had to endure the obsessive fermentation period,” Eliasson joked. “The whole studio was fermented, I think.”
They’ve also welcomed research and science into the kitchen. A few weeks ago, the studio was visited by Barry Smith, a neuroscientist with a specialty in food. He took aside a group of workers and had them taste wine while wearing earplugs and clips on their noses. “It was totally bonkers,” Eliasson explained. “You try to drink wine with a nose clip on and it literally takes the taste away.”
He sees his kitchen as a place for creativity. One such experiment involved everyone eating with very long cutlery; they found that the utensils made it so difficult to eat that it was easier to feed one another instead.
“Clearly, some of it is fooling around and having a good time, but some of it is essentially related to art,” Eliasson reflected. When you think deeply about the taste of food as you’re eating it, he said, the experience is so much more intense. “We have, in our face, a handful of senses that are numb, because we don’t pay attention to them,” Eliasson said. “If you pay attention, you can just experience so much more. As an artist, I’m very interested in that.”