Some pride themselves on being able to wield the cutlery of another culture; forks, soup spoons, chopsticks, skewers—so many ways to consume the idiosyncratic foods we love, all adapted to the conditions in which they were born. Steinbeisser—an Amsterdam-based “experimental gastronomy” brand that prioritizes the use of recycled non-plastic materials such as stone, wood, and metal—has brought together over 40 artists and craftspeople for its jouw… initiative.
The pieces in the collection are striking, existing somewhere between artwork and tool, an intersection that speaks to the immensity of collaboration in the global age. Many of the pieces do not strike the viewer, at first, as usable. Oblong forms look as though they were plucked straight from the natural surface of a world not quite like our own, while hanging contraptions and metal finger-covers seem derived from a baroque and mechanical bacchanal.
But these objects are indeed meant to be used. Collaborating with contemporary artists such as jewellers Helen Habtay and Joo Hyung Park, ceramicist Adam Knoche, and metalsmith Jaydan Moore, Steinbeisser has been staging experimental exhibits across Europe in which renowned chefs pair food with these works of art qua utensils. Warped designs meet a certain camp aesthetic in a way that foregrounds the lived relationship with food and the craft of the artists. It is obvious that these works are descended from surrealist experimentations with form based on the workings of the unconscious; they test the boundaries of what is real, and sanctioned, and what is possible. It is possible to achieve functionality without sacrificing playfulness and levity, Steinbeisser’s pieces seem to say.
These ornamentations are for those who want to think outside the box and merge art with everyday experience. As culture shifts endlessly between function and art, as people share ways of making and experiencing food, the opportunities for innovation in design grow. Steinbeisser appears to be leading the charge in many ways on this front, from a formal design standpoint. Can trends like these be a rebound from the strength of minimalism? Only time will tell, but for now the brand will keep supplying the tableware of fine (fantasy) dining.
Photos Neu Neu Steinbeisser with Andre Chiang in Amsterdam 2019 ©Kathrin Koschitzki for Steinbeisser.Org.
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