For the exhibition opening of “Our Haus” at the ACFNY, Austrian artist Rainer Prohaska’s performance “Kitchen on Every Floor” made for some unusual catering: Visitors cooked their meals at workstations set up all over the gallery.
Heinz: The cooking performance you staged for the ACFNY's anniversary exhibition has existed for quite some time. How did this project come about?
Prohaska: Its impetus was actually the Theory of Interpassivity developed by Robert Pfaller and others. Back in the day, there was a veritable hype surrounding video recorders, and Pfaller found that people taped an incredible amount of TV shows without ever watching them, having the VCR essentially watch the show or movie for them.
Heinz: And there are similarities to cooking?
Prohaska: Cooking is booming right now; a massive amount of cookbooks are being published, there are countless cooking shows – and, at the same time, studies show that people are increasingly forgetting how to cook. They believe that if they consume cooking shows or cookbooks, the know-how will somehow transfer to them. They overlook that one actually has to cook in order for this to work.
Heinz: And that is why you get people to cook again with your performance?
Prohaska: There are many installations, images, or actions in art which aim to criticize. But that's exactly what my project doesn't want to do. Much rather, it wants to create an alternative. I want to put people back in the kitchen and wish to get as many of them as possible involved in the cooking process again.
Heinz: That's why you distribute the individual steps across the gallery space like an assembly line?
Prohaska: I am interested in the idea of interaction, of a social platform. Furthermore, by fragmenting the recipe into small, simple steps and by customizing the individual work stations, it is as if the recipe dictated the space. If you change the recipe, the installation would be completely different.
Heinz: Which recipes did you have the ACFNY cook?
Prohaska: We made Liptauer cheese and Pas,a Mezze. Liptauer is a typical Austrian dish; you won't get it in North America. The Mezze requires many of the same ingredients, but it's Turkish – a culture that has a strong presence in Central Europe. After all, you can only separate Vienna from Turkish culture if you turn a blind eye. I find it absolutely fascinating, especially in terms of cuisine.
Heinz: What role did the building of the ACFNY play in the performance?
Prohaska: When you enter the building of the ACFNY, you are overwhelmed by its extreme architecture, its narrowness and the height of its rooms. My installation embraced this architecture; I designed it especially for these rooms. I like doing that, especially when the spaces are that demanding.
Heinz: So you particularly like this Haus?
Prohaska: What 95% of all artists find appalling, I find extremely cool, because I like to experiment a great deal with interior architecture. Apart from this, the ACFNY is just a great place for communication. It's an institution many people in New York are familiar with.
Heinz: Your food performance was a big success at the opening. What do you think excites people about it?
Prohaska: Well, I myself don't just make art, I also like looking at it. And I am often bored. I don't believe that art has to measure up to the whole entertainment culture, but I do think that many artists could make more of an effort to approach their audience instead of just letting it stand there. What I managed to do here, I think, is to convey a sense of fun using a very simple setting. The feeling I have when I go someplace and really enjoy myself – I want people to have that same feeling with my performance. (Andrea Heinz)