What's so Funny?
Buy and Burn this book instead!
How Not To Festival
How Not To Fire Or Pole Dance
What's so Funny?
The following text was written for a presentation at What's so Funny?
Frieze Talks, Frieze Art Fair, London, October 14, 2010.
As I was unable to travel, the text was performed by Pablo Leon De La Barra.
250 000 years ago, Homo Sapiens began controlling fire and cooking her food. This primordial skill slowly developed and was handed down from generation to generation.
And eventually ended up in my grandmother's hands through her mastery of her kitchen. As if instilled with some genetic code of instinctively knowing what do, her meals
came out perfectly every time. But really, she had learned by initially watching her mother, and then from her own years of experience, wisdom and intuition that follows.
She cooked within the limited parameters of her culture, economy and season. She made everything from scratch, preserving vitamins for the winter by handpicking fruit in the summer,
making pasta dough, sauces and stocks. She managed soups, salads, meats and desserts. She baked bread, cookies, tarts and birthday cakes. She cooked herself through the Second
World War on rations and she fed a large family with her unlimited tricks of the trade, without ever having to consult a written recipe and without any gadgets other than a
wooden spoon and a coal oven.
Myself, I am a victim of a broken evolutionary chain. In just one generation-the generation in which my university educated mother went off to work in an office building and
the food industry took over the kitchen. This was the generation to whom "culinary experts" on TV started to give advice on how to fold napkins or prepare the most insipidly
simple pasta dishes. I know this is not a signal of expanded knowledge, but a sign of the tragic loss of the knowledge previously kept within families, communities and their
lands through acts of hand and mouth.
My family shopped for all of its food at the supermarket. And as a result, I was one of those kids who believed that fish was square. And that breakfast and its plastic toy
prize needed to be shaken out of a box. And that the tasteless exotic fruit that was imported and flown in from all over the world should be naturally available to me in all
seasons. I think I am quite a typical representative of my generation. We have access to everything but we do not understand very much at all.
When I became an adult and started to travel the world, I became exposed to a wealth of international cuisine and enthusiastically sampled all of its flavors. But moving erratically
from one food culture to another, Thai one day, Mexican the next (then a fusion of the two) did not teach me much about food. I still consume the pickled ginger on my sushi plate
that is meant to cleanse my palate like it was a salad. And even after living in Sicily for 5 years, I can never match the correct pasta shape with the right sauce. Choosing among
the wealth of seemingly unlimited possible combinations is completely arbitrary for me. Yet a native Sicilian who still follows traditional skill would never use long pasta with
lentils or short pasta with oil and garlic. Would you?
When I am depressed, I perform nutritional experiments on myself such as "Eat junk food in front of the TV to gain 10 kilos", or " Do not eat anything but rice cakes for one
month to drop the above mentioned 10 kilos". And when I actually get down to cooking, it only takes me a few emails to burn my dinner. I might even go as far as to study a
cookbook and try to recreate something from it, but even then, the one ingredient that is never mentioned in all of these cookbooks is: EXPERIENCE. What nobody ever tells you
out there in the Good Advice Industry is that you have to make the same dish again and again, for many, many years, before you can actually even begin to understand it.
I am tired of celebrity chefs trying to sell my grandmother's wisdom back to me, while lying about how easily I can have it. At the same time, I have found beauty and bravery
in these once again seminal attempts of trying, testing, failing and learning from mistakes. So I started The How Not to Cookbook to demonstrate these failures as pure acts of
creation. And because I know I am not alone, I have invited everyone else to contribute their own misfires in an act of collective celebration.
1000 people contributed advice to the first edition of The How Not To Cookbook. The small Collective gallery in Edinburgh produced it in 2009. This year, a second worldwide edition
came out with Rizzoli in NYC. I would like to thank both publishers for their faith in my project. Everyone is welcome to contribute to future editions.
The How Not To project celebrates the mistake as an art form in itself. The art of having to reinvent the wheel. Like all other art, it is a project that is steeped in trial
and error, awkwardness, alienation, embarrassment, humiliation, stupidity, struggle, suffering, pain, bad memory and tragedy. If there is anything funny about it, I would like
to make clear that this is not intentional, but an effect of catharsis.
Buy and Burn this book instead!
Read more on the history of book burning here!
With Leon de la Barra, Pablo
For the Centre for Aesthetic Revolution, London, September 11, 2010.
Visit The Museum of Burnt Food
How Not To Festival
Thank You visitors at Shambala
Festival in Northamptonshire, UK:
1 Do not bring to many
outfits. Nobody cares about what you look like and you
will only want to be wearing your one pair of thermal leggings
while camping for 4 cold and rainy days anyway.
2 If you are uncomfortable
being naked in the unisex sauna, it is OK to wear a swimsuit
but not OK to stare at others genitals.
3 Do not take the mini
golf challenge too seriously. By the time you get to
it, it will already have been wrecked. Make creative
decisions of how to cheat effectively instead so to keep
the game going.
4 Do not discuss politics
with the guy who runs the Zapatista cafe. He is only
selling the coffee.
5 Do not make any over political
statements with your costume. Festivals are about escapism
and subtle irony, not overt propaganda. Do not go as
a beaten up housewife for example. Dress up in a white
silk and lace wedding dress with a long train that gets
all covered with mud instead.
6 Do not go to the
toilets when you feel you need to go to the toilet. The
queue is always 1/2h long, so go before.
How Not To Fire or Pole Dance
From the students of Poi
Passion, the School of Poi and Fire Performance in Brighton, UK:
1 Do not try avoid getting
hurt. You will hit yourself in the head at some point. Same with
pole dancing which obviously hurts a lot, but do not let that
get you down. You will have friction burns, hair ripped out of
your leg, muscles torn, bruises behind the back of your knees,
while still smiling making it look sexy.
2 If you happen to be in Morocco
and can not find any paraffin, someone might tell you “Here
in Morocco we use white spirit.” White spirit lights
very quickly. You will dunk your poi in a bucket, walk
away to lit it and leave a trail of fire behind you which
will start an even bigger fire that will reach and explode
your car. Do not use white spirits.
3 When trying to learn
Fire Dancing from Youtube movies, do not assume the
video explains it all. Only a good teacher will explain
to you how a movement originates, what is happening
in the legs when you move your hand.
4 Do not fall in love
with your dance partner, cause if you break up its
agonizing torture. Its less fun staying professional,
but you should.
5 When you are the youngest
in the group, do not be scared, just throw yourself into it.
6 Do not give out any information about the show during rehearsal.