An Imaginary Heritage
Collaboration with ceramic artist Mladen Ivančić
An Imaginary Heritage is a collection of wooden and ceramic objects which represent social food-related rituals. The project explores the meanings behind the terms tradition, modernising tradition and invented tradition, largely present within the concept of rediscovering ‘local’ cuisines. Therefore the objects presented pretend to look like they belong to factual tradition, but are actually taking facts as a basis for imagination: a vision of history that might have happened, but never did.
When attempting to deal with modern understanding of Mediterranean traditions related to food and crafts, one soon arrives to the notion of invented tradition. Starting with 1950’s and 1960’s, globally popular Mediterranean diet was shaped as a fake construct of dishes and ingridients which were never actually combined in traditional cuisine; furthermore, many ethnologists believe that Mediterranean is an area culturally and geographically too diverse to unify its cuisine by a common denominator. Healthy diet was presented as a part of ‘southern way of life’ to the countries of European north, solely for the purpose of branding Mediterranean as a touristic product.
Through dialogue between the two materials and techniques – wood and ceramics – with fellow artist Mladen Ivančić I created a narrative that combines factual, authentic tradition with the fictional tradition: an imaginary narrative of what tradition actually is and how fragile is its authenticity.
Smoking fish, a typical Northern European way of preserving food which is becoming increasingly popular in Mediterranean cuisine, is given a new life through an object in which it never traditionally existed. On a level deeper than conscious understanding, the object explores the social implications of smokers and smoke as crowd-gatherers, as the smoke speaks to our collective subconsciouss, and evokes a sense of temporarity. Thus it is not just the wooden form or function that makes the object: it is the smoke coming out of it, which makes it truly alive. In a certain way, what I’m really making is not a wooden barrel, but a metaphor for coming together in the simple activities of communal life; activities that are intuitively familiar, but require a thoughtful space that is hard to find these days anywhere.