After the KitchenLab event and before writing the article on Oki Wonder FoodLabs, I sent @agryfp_hack a few questions. These are his raw answers, which he was also happy to share. Thanks, Andrew!
- What are your post-event impressions of this atypically online session of KitchenLab?
The Kitchen Lab Renga session which I proposed for Oki Wonder Lab was an experiment in how to share individually isolated kitchen practices together with others. The paradoxical situation of doing something that cannot be tasted or smelled, but only seen, mimicked and narrated, according to traditional cooking videos and tutorial formats, was something to inspire and start our playful session together. Borrowing inspiration to Renga/Renka practice, we can use the spontaneity, improvisation, connective togetherness, to have some fun, but also hopefully address some of the issues of the moment. That we managed to keep the company of observers amused for a period of an hour, and experimented with transmitting the recipe online, how to use the camera, the down-time waiting, etc. suggested something successful. I was happy at the end of the process and day, albeit exhausted. It was a demanding performance of hospitality, cooking, and consideration of guests, as well as a dialogue between our two contexts of Helsinki and Okinawa, and between our [Marc Dusseiller & my] performed (for the audio-visual stream) artist-researcher, curious, hacker, kitchen mentalities.
- How did you first come to be involved with Hackteria, and what are the crossovers with Pixelache?
I first met Marc Dusseiller in ISEA 2010, where he was a guest participant in a workshop myself and my Latvian Fellows Signe Pucena & Ugis Pucens, of SERDE Interdisciplinary Artist Group, where we were conducting, inviting the media artist & curator audience to take different documentation roles for recording the making of moonshine spirits, according to Soviet and post-Soviet DIY distilling tech, learned by SERDE a kitchen hack essentially, using bowls and pots and bags of ice. The following year Hackteria were invited to contribute to Pixelache Helsinki 2011 Festival, if I remember correctly by the Finnish Bioart Society, to make their signature webcam microscope workshop. There is also a long-standing friendship with Koelse Association for Experimental Electronics between both parties which smooths the collaborations along. Hence, Hackteria Network, and Marc particularly, have been a guest or contributors to Pixelache Festival on numerous occasions since, Rabbit Hunting for the Foodycle 2014 festival, and most recently in 2016 with the Empathetic Taxidermy workshop, or last year, 2019, most recently conducting a micro electronic-sound synthesizer workshop in the 8-bit Mixtape series. Marc and myself have had also, since 2011, had a remote sharing connection in each other’s processes. For example, my ‘Not Knowing Something’ workshop sent remotely to Maribor that same year on the topic of Workshopology, or tapping Birch Sap in the backyard forest of Rande Lab in North Switzerland, 2012, his physical presence turning up in time for opening and tasting barrels of 3-month old Sauerkraut in Pixelache’s Ferment Lab Strasbourg project, late June 2017. So yes, quite naturally there is a long history between Hackteria Network and Pixelache Festival, thanks often to the support of ProHelvetica Foundation.
- You referenced renga, wabi sabi, “the Eurasian continent between us”… As someone with cultural connections in Scotland, Russia, Finland, etc., could you say a few words about your relationship or history with Japanese or Okinawan culture?
Certainly! In the start of the broadcast connection to Okinawa, I shared references, books and narratives which introduced the context of my connection to Japan, and my artist-organiser interest in intangible cultural heritage, although food crosses a line with the tangible and tastable also. I showed the books on my ‘kitchen book shelf’, which included two from the mid 1970s, The Book of Tofu, & The Book of Miso (W. Shurtleff & A. Aoyagi, Autumn Press, 1975 & 1981 respectively) which were recently gifted to me by an elder Dutch friend. However my first connections to Japan as inspiration date back to the mid 1990s, with my interest in Japanese woodcut printmaking, such as Utagawa Hiroshige (1797-1858), and also Japanese Techno music, in particular Ken Ishii (1970-).
While reading Zen Buddhism books in the mid to late 90’s by famous translators of the tradition, Alan Watts and D. T. Suzuki, I used to joke that while working in a Glasgow Brasserie-restaurant kitchen (the classic Cafe Gandolfi) during and after my art-school days, that I did the cold food plate preparation work over the weekends according to the ‘Zen of Salad Dressing’, basically throwing things together with ‘no-mind’. Humour aside, later when studying the Japanese intangible cultural heritage traditions of Haiku (K. Yasuda, Japanese Haiku: Its Essential Nature and History, Tuttle Publishing, 2001), I came across Renga/Renka as a practice, which I learned pre-dated the well-know Haiku format. The collaborative practice of linked-verse was inspiring to me as an example of live, contextual and collaborative ‘image sharing’ via spoken-word. I adapted this idea into a research and performance project in 2003 with Finnish colleagues at Media Lab Helsinki, called Rengo, which combined state-of-the-art mobile media messaging (and archiving) between a group of people’s mobile devices, and was presented in ISEA 2004 in Helsinki. Eventually, in 2015, I wrote up the story that is published on researchcatalogue.net for artistic research. From the mobile media projects of the early 2000s, I met Professor Shin Mizukoshi of Tokyo University’s Interfaculty Initiative in Information Studies. After 12 years of knowing each other, at long last, I had the chance, for 4 days only, to visit him in Tokyo in January 2016. So far that is my only visit to Japan.
As you highlighted, “the Eurasian Continent between us” is the huge landmass that is in the middle of our island archipelago cultures of origin, Scotland as part of Those Islands, sometimes referred to the British Isles, and the Japanese archipelago that stretches from the northern Sakhalin Island Arc down to the Ryukyu Island Arc that includes Okinawa. I have got to know the Western European side of the Eurasian landmass pretty well, but have less personal experience of the Eastern side, except what I can learn via books, media and, of course, topic of this interview/report, live internet connections Conveniently Switzerland, Finland are cultural islands in between… Orientalist Poland (where I first saw the Japanese woodcuts first), the wide expanse of culture and science in Russia or middle-southern Siberia I have got to know in the past 15 years, where I have family connections and ancestorial learnings stretch my curiousities even further eastwards in migrant practice, and epistemological knowing from experience. The transience of the Japanese concept of wabi sabi, whereby we try to accept imperfection, and in the case of Hackteria, embrace messes, hacks, failures and joy in experimentation, can be borrowed, adopted, lived, and hopefully, radically, passed on and across generations.