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, devised and produced by Choi. By twisting idioms in art, food, and design to bend the rules of "aesthetic consumption", the events sought to diffuse the increasingly rarified activities of commensality and aesthetic connoisseurship into accessible scenarios of kinship.
A participatory artwork in the form of a cookbook, based on these events, will be published by Prestel Publishing in the autumn of 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", the Fluxus-inspired artwork-cum-cookbook encourages the participant to improvise—or rewrite it—at will.
As an artwork, the publication situates itself within a legacy of conceptual projects that adopted the format of the cookbook to explore how rituals can provide a space for play, critique, and invention. It seeks to position food 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 privatisation, there is something revolutionary in the idea that anyone can make anything–especially experiences meant for sharing– using ordinary things.