Chicago, 21 March 2012, Art Media Agency (AMA).
Enemy Kitchen, a social art project created in 2004 by Michael Rakowitz, has taken on Chicago. An article from The Art Newspaper website, published on 19 March, describes the project.
With Enemy Kitchen, Rakowitz hopes to introduce American students to Iraqi culture, specifically to the country’s cuisine. He uses his own mother’s personal recipes, she herself having Jewish-Iraqi origins. The work manifests itself through a food truck in which the social artist drives around Chicago, often stopping to park in front of the city’s major artistic institutions. He employs veterans of the War in Iraq as well as Iraqi refugees to run this mobile installation.
Materials used both inside and outside the vehicle reflect several messages related to the war. For example, a Chicago flag depicting the Iraqi flag’s colours is draped across the truck. Additionally the food is served upon paper plates with motifs resembling those of the stolen dishes from Saddam Hussein’s palace. Lastly, the words “Ysallim Idak” a common Iraqi expression used to compliment a good chef, is engraved on the metal part of a soap dispenser which is bolted to the side of the truck.
The project will run during the exhibition, “FEAST: Radical Hospitality in Contemporary Art” at Smart Museum. It will travel around Chicago until June 2012. The truck will then be offered to a local restaurant, who had helped provide materials for the project. The veterans and refugees may remain employed with the restaurant if they wish to do so.
On Enemy Kitchen’s website, Rakowitz describes public comments surrounding the project since its creation in 2004. Hostile comments made by certain students over mixing local cooking with Iraqi cuisine has sparked debates about the subject of the war in Iraq started by the US.