Food is a necessity, and eating a daily activity. The habits, etiquettes and tools that form around the act of eating have changed little over time. Advanced Dining, a curated culinary experience by Telok Ayer Arts Club and artist collective The Picnic, held in conjunction with Singapore Food Festival 2019, seeks to unravel and re-imagine these ideas in a seven-course meal that subvert food norms and dining standards, while presenting food as an artful experience –eschewing the typical expectation of food, art and food art.
Held across three consecutive Saturdays on 13, 20 and 27 July over lunch and dinner, each 1.00pm or 7.00pm session will see The Picnic—a duo comprising multidisciplinary artists Aiwei Foo and Wangxian Tan—welcome 15 participants to the Arts Club’s main dining room, where they’ve conceptualised an at once solitary yet communal meal by draping a U-shaped dining table in bespoke white curtains and light, with15 individual sets of neck and hand cut-outs for diners to “wear” throughout the duration of the meal. Enshrouded in cloth, diners are effectively disengaged from any outside distraction and confined in a sensorial dining chamber that gently disorientates and charmingly surprises,as each course is presented to the table by the artists themselves.
No stranger in the realm of integrating art into experiences, The Picnic’s past works often blur the boundaries of art and life by curating experiential gestures in carefully designed spaces to contemplate and moderate the complexities of urban living. Interpreting the concept from the kitchen is head chef Bertram Leong, who helms the Art Club’s undertaking of Singaporean cuisine in all its artfulness—whether of its time-honoured heritage, hotchpotched heartland flavours or the simple goodness of ingredients sourced closed to home—that, through a collaborative creative process with The Picnic, results in a mind-boggling seven-course menu of authentic local flavour combinations disguised in unrecognisable forms and misidentified labels such as ‘A Mess’ and ‘Two hands to clap’.
The ideas in Advanced Dining poses the question to diners on why food looks the way it does, how they evoke feelings of desire or disgust, and why certain styles, formats and environments of eating are more comfortable than others –to each their own. By focusing on the familiarity of homegrown flavours as it is being celebrated across the island, the artists and chef are well primed to tease out specific conventions surrounding local food, and in the process break old habits or form new ones. Priced at S$128++ per person with only 15 seats each across six sessions, the experience includes a welcome tea ceremony, cocktail pairing and a newfound curiosity for food as an artform