Dancing Cooks

DANCING COOKS: The No-Menu Restaurant.

In summer 2010 HanSam Son and I turned a scruffy, vacant store in Anyang (Korea) into a vibrant dining place to attract new audiences into this volatile, old-style marketplace. We salvaged bricks to make a pizza oven, and recycled wood to build this social kitchen. Guests of our daily cooking improvisations brought their own ingredients and jointly negotiated their dinner.

To propel convival exchanges we ran the restaurant without menu & money involved. Guests of Dancing Cooks were asked to bring their own ingredients and became inevitably part of the discussion on origin and preparation of their meal. While promoting the small retailers in Seoksu market for sourcing foods this spurred encounters among different social groups.

Cooking Improv in Progress (stop-motion clip, 2:06min, 15.4MB)
Audio recording and collage by Ian-John Hutchinson
videosClick below to watch.

Momentarium Video

Joint cooking without menu necessitates an inventiveness only achieved through open dialogue. Dancing Cooks’ interior has been designed to facilitate those alternative exchanges: a small, light-filled space dominated by a huge table where guests spread out their food and menu ideas. Contrary to cooking at home, this eatery was a space for conviviality and surprising culinary outcomes.


No-Menu Restaurant

Exchanging foods & menu ideas instead of money

Cook improv on a daily basis
Running the community kitchen felt like offering the art mediation program to the public on a daily basis, seven days a week. Making pizza from scratch proved to be for most participating children and adults a novel and holistic experience: from the sensory quality of kneading dough to the metaphysical transformation of baking bread in the wood-fired oven. I am grateful that I was able to expand the operation of the restaurant beyond the regular exhibition period because it allowed me to make the place better known over the course of an entire month. Initially I aspired to bring in more guest cooks and host activities related to growing and cooking local foods. But I realized that this necessitates more than one artist brain and that it exceeded the possibilities of this residency. I imagine that with a group of motivated people and a support structure in place the restaurant could further evolve — possibly in a self-organizing type of way.


SLIDE SHOW: At the No-Menu Restaurant (Aug 20 - Oct 4, 2010)

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Shaping an artful restaurant in Seoksu marketplace
Important was to create a welcoming community kitchen that not only was responsible to the “social eco system” of Seoksu market but also to our planet’s “biosphere” at large. This meant that I paid particular attention to the materials and mileage that went into the making of the restaurant. We relied mostly on glass, ceramic and wood for building the interior and avoided plastic and aluminum. Most of the construction materials and utensils were sourced from nearby Anyang Public Art Projects (APAP), recycling centers of the neighboring HyunDai high-rise apartments and from local retail outlets in and around Seoksu market.

Dancing Cooks Food Guide

In an effoert to integrate the neighboring food stores into the Dancing Cooks project, HyeRyeon Jang and I established an illustrated Food Guide To Seoksu Market that helped our guests to purchase their ingredients.

Rather than to confront the surrounding shopkeepers with a ready-made shop I intended to make the development process visible to the market community and open it up as much as possible. I tried to engage the marketplace people in all phases of the restaurant project, from its planning and renovation to its operation. In my opinion Dancing Cooks had its strongest moments when I publicly declared that I wanted to convert the scruffy, vacant market store allocated to me into a home base (July 18) and when I made a survey among 29 Seoksu shopkeepers to find a name for the restaurant (August 6). Together with volunteer HyeRyeon Jang I also mapped out a Food Guide To Seoksu Market in an effort to integrate the neighboring retailers rather than to compete with them.


SLIDE SHOW: Building Up Dancing Cooks (July 12 - Aug 31, 2010)

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Seoksu Art Project
Seoksu Art Project 2010
The Dancing Cooks restaurant was part of the Seoksu Art Project (SAP) 2010 and Anyang Public Art Project (APAP) 2010. Behind SAP stands the Supplement Space Stone&Water, a nonprofit arts platform that promotes experimental projects and residencies in and around the Seoksu Market in Anyang, South Korea, where art and life meet. Since 2007, SAP is hosting an international residency program that immerses guest artists in the local community of this traditional marketplace that is economically in decline. SAP’s goal is to transform transform idle spaces into creative opportunities where citizens and artists envision and experience alternative ways of cohabitation.

Seoksu Art Project
Anyang Public Art Project 2010 —
Responding to “Cities Temporary, Society Nomadic”

Anyang Public Art Project (APAP) was an inquiry into the idea of new community that could sustain and advance within the ephemeral conditions of the contemporary Korean city. The volatile situation of Seoksu Marketplace is due to a gigantic high-rise appartment complex project that suspends the future and prosperity of the entire Seoksu-dong and Manan-gu area. This predominant urban redevelopment process in Korean cities is violent and often a total erasure of the past on behalf of the new. The result is a highly fragmented and largely homogenized urban landscape — mostly parceled into rather unattractive and virtually identical hi-rise apartment buildings. With most existing urban structures and systems economically relevant for no more than 20 years, cities are becoming patchworks of tabula rasa to be redeveloped over and over again. Capitalism moves and so do Koreans. Ingreasingly Koreans are becoming a society of floating populations, physically disconnected from the land, constantly moving from one place to another. Korean society seems to be nomadic again. APAP 2010 was grounded on the idea of Public Culture, a practice of art as a multi-disciplinary, research-based and process-oriented collaboration with the public and its various cultures. where citizens and artists envision and experience alternative ways of cohabitation.

T H A N K · Y O U ! Many people helped shape and activate the Dancing Cooks restaurant. I want to express my gratitude to all those whose name came to my attention and the numerous dancing cooks and guests that I missed to mention here: YoungDae Im, ChanEung Park, YongJa Park, SoYean Goak, YoonJi Lee, DhoKyoung Lee, SanGyo Lee, EunSun Lee, SoYoung Hyun, Mee-Wha Lee, SanJo Lee, Mi Yoo, DaiNam Kim, Ian-John Hutchinson, HyeRyeon Jeng, JunYeong Jang, Daeil Lee, AhRam Lee, Tong-Hi Lioba Choi, InSuk Ko, Florian Stirnemann, Jia Gu, Matthias Rick, HanSam Son, Chie Yamada, HyoJang Hyori, YongU Lee, SunJung Bahc, BongChin Oh, Jae Kyang, SoMinh Kyang, GangSik Lee, JunMo An, GyeongSeob Oh, JunYoung Ji, Monika Hyu, HongSoo Kang, HyeRan Park, Junghee Ahn, HyoCheng & HyoJung Lee, KwangTe, Kyong Park, Lisa Kim Davis, MiHyun Paek, JooYoung Lee, SanGyong Kim, Palash Bhattacharjee, Jimbo Allen Abel, Marc Vincent Cosico, Laura Cooper, Gabriele Horndasch, Ibai Hernandorena, Katrin Murbach, Riikka Tauriainen, Tetsuro Kano, Keijiro Okamura, Dorota Podlaska — and last but not least — Lehan W. Ramsay and Yuka Saitô.