Le Corbuffet was a series of Fluxus-inspired participatory performances (2015-17) that used food as a medium to comment on the increasing privatization of culture.
A conceptual artwork in the form of a cookbook, inspired by these events, will be released by Prestel in 2019.
In 2014, Esther Choi stumbled across an elaborate menu crafted by László Moholy-Nagy. The multi-panelled bill of fare was for a dinner held in tribute to the Bauhaus founder and architect, Walter Gropius, in 1937. Inspired by the menu for Gropius’s dinner, and the questions that it raised about the elitism of cultural production, she decided to conduct a social experiment a year later.
She hosted the first in a series of "Le Corbuffets" in her Brooklyn apartment, a project which carried on until 2017. Offering meals to an assortment of guests, these social gatherings revolved around the consumption of absurd, pun-inspired dishes that referred to canonical artists and designers. As a commentary on the status of art, food, and design as commodities to be "gobbled up" by the market, the project deliberately twisted idioms to explore the notion of "aesthetic consumption" though taste and perception.
A conceptual artwork in the form of a cookbook, based on these events, will be released by Prestel Publishing in October 2019. Designed by the acclaimed graphic design practice Studio Lin, the vividly illustrated book will contain sixty recipes or "action scripts" written by Choi, along with her photographs of edible sculptures. Rather than prompt the reader to reenact the original "score" or set of events, the Fluxus-inspired artwork-cum-cookbook encourages the participant to improvise—or rewrite it—at will to generate a new set of outcomes.
The publication situates itself within a legacy of artworks that adopted the format of the cookbook–and the motif of domesticity, more broadly– to reimagine rituals as potential sites for critique and invention. As a conceptual artwork, it is an experiment that attempts to appropriate the conventions of cookbook publishing to circulate a critique pertaining to the privatization of culture to a mass audience. Food is positioned as a tool to examine the politics of sharing and hospitality, encouraging participants to enact modes of what anthropologist Marshall Sahlins has referred to as "consumptive production.". In so doing, the project hopes to suggest that in an era of rampant neoliberal privatization, there is something crucial in the idea that anyone can make anything–especially experiences meant for sharing– using ordinary things.