REVIEW: Stage: The Culinary Internship

Stage: The Culinary Internship follows 20 hopeful chefs as they participate in a program at one of the top 10 restaurants in the world, called Mugaritz, in Spain. The interns stay there for a year if they can make it through the brutal training and daily hardships, learning how to make difficult, unique dishes and withstanding the pressure of a busy kitchen that demands perfection.

Stage: The Culinary Internship' Review: A Polished Restaurant Doc - Variety

Through the documentary we learn about a few of the students specifically, who have come from all over the world to learn at Mugaritz. The documentary focuses a lot more on the lives of the students than on the restaurant itself, and it follows them through several months of their internship and some of their personal struggles in the kitchen. A lot of them decided to go home instead of moving on to the second round, or quit the program because of its difficulty. This was surprising to me, as I thought that such a selective program would make people want to stay and that it would have gathered people who were much more passionate about cooking than it seemed. It felt like perhaps the documentary missed out on a lot of the struggles of people day to day, and skipped over their difficulties. It just showed them deciding to leave and exiting the program, which seemed a little confusing. Also, I was expecting more of a focus on the food they were making and how it was made, so this was a little bit of a disappointment to me. I liked hearing about the stories of the different people, but I would have really enjoyed a focus on the foods as well.

Stage: The Culinary Internship | documentary Channel

But what was shown of the foods was incredibly interesting. They have a whole team of people who just design the ideas for the foods, giving them a backstory and reason before sending off someone else to figure out how to make them. And the foods they made were so odd, from the actual items used in the dish themselves to the presentation of the platter. I was so intrigued by their use of all sorts of flowers, animal parts, and things I had never even heard of. The head chef of the restaurant even remarked in the documentary that he did not care if the patrons thought the food was disgusting, he just wanted to incur some kind of reaction from them. I thought this was very interesting, because usually a restaurant tries to make dishes that appeal to people that they will enjoy.

Stage: The Culinary Internship - Enzian Theater

Overall, I liked the documentary, but I would have preferred more of a focus on the food than the different interns, as I was so much more interested in the different things being made and the way the restaurant operated. If you like culinary shows and weird foods, than I would definitely recommend this documentary!

PREVIEW: Stage: The Culinary Internship

This award-winning documentary follows the apprenticeship of a small group of interns as they learn culinary skills and wisdom through one of the best restaurants in the world, Mugaritz. It is a Michelin-starred kitchen, under the world renowned Chef Andoni Luis Aduriz. The documentary reveals the inner workings of a restaurant such as this, and the difficult, risky journey these interns have embarked on.

I am excited to see this documentary because I love watching highly rated chefs and kitchens in action, especially when they are showing new chefs the ropes. I hope I can also pick up some cooking skills on the way as well!

The documentary is available through the Michigan Theater, in their Virtual Theater Palace. The movie is $12 to rent, and less for members. Watch it here: https://www.michtheater.org/screenings/stage-the-culinary-internship/

REVIEW: The Book of Two Ways

While I was excited to read Jodi Picoult’s newest book, The Book of Two Ways, it turned out to be less enjoyable than I had hoped. Although it is a masterful piece of writing, for me, the death-centric subject hit a little too close to home during the COVID-19 pandemic. In fact found myself avoiding the book and even starting another book at the same time. (Gasp!! I do not usually read multiple books at once.)

Death permeates nearly every page of The Book of Two Ways, and though this may be cathartic for some, it had the opposite effect on me. The novel centers around Dawn Edelstein, a death doula (a job described as like a birth doula, but “at the other end of the life spectrum”), and the divergent paths that her life could have taken. Readers learn that years in the past, she had been a doctoral candidate in the Yale Egyptology program, but she did not complete her degree. The story line alternates between past and present, and in the present-day, she finds herself caught in what could have been. Her dissertation was going to be on The Book of Two Ways, an ancient Egyptian text that is “the first known map of the afterlife.” As a result, there is no escaping the endless theme of death in either of the two storylines. However, what I think finally put me over the edge was a guided death meditation that Dawn completed with one of her clients she has as a death doula. Described in excruciating detail over multiple pages, readers contemplate what it feels like to die alongside the characters. Perhaps my futile desire to avoid this death-talk was all too human (Dawn aptly points out during the meditation that “not a single sentient being – no matter how spiritually evolved, or powerful, or wealthy, or motivated – has escaped death”), but it is the truth, nonetheless. The writing was excellent and the theme important, but I just was not in the headspace to appreciate it.

On the other hand, however, I did enjoy the book’s rich details that engross readers in its world. For one thing, reading The Book of Two Ways whet my appetite to learn more about Egyptology, and though some of the specifics in the book are fictional, many of the facts are real. Additionally, Dawn’s husband, Brian, is a physicist, and this leads to crash-course summaries of the multiverse, electron spin, and Schrödinger’s cat, all of which become instrumental to the plot.

Though I did not personally enjoy reading The Book of Two Ways, it is still a skilled piece of writing that I probably would have appreciated more in non-pandemic times. Indeed, if the quality of a book is measured by the amount of time that it haunts readers’ minds after it has been completed, I was still thinking about The Book of Two Ways for days after I had finished it.

REVIEW: Ann Arbor Art Center Murals – Olivia Guterson (Midnight Olive) and Avery Williamson

How do women of color, specifically black women, employ mark making to transform overlooked spaces to imagine future potentialities? Focusing on making processes as generative healing, both Olivia Guterson and Avery Williamson, two muralists commissioned by the Ann Arbor Art Center, are interested in mobilizing the power of line as a tool for letting go. Collective loss and struggles for survival are projected into portals, offering lenses through which to map out realizable landscapes of growth, joy, and play.  

During my conversation with Williamson, she remarked about the power of black abstraction as “a way to engage with the loss of [African American history] and also to celebrate the opportunity to imagine alternative worlds and lives.” Directing their focus to an incomplete archive, a juxtaposition of ancestral cloth, texts and annotations, and family photo albums, Guterson and Williamson’s work looks back as much, if not more, than it looks forward in order to self-realize diverse possibilities and individualized languages for expression. After sorting through queries, both theirs and mine, and pulling concepts and direct quotes from conversations with each artist, I am interested in a unifying question that runs through their work. How does the anonymity of abstraction lend its way to an ambiguous existence, encased within the permeable membrane between portraiture and landscape, that leaves traces of the past while denying the possibility of a future reimagined without gaps?

Olivia Guterson, a Detroit based interdisciplinary artist and new mother also known as Midnight Olive, began our conversation confiding in me that she didn’t talk much as a young child. Although this was temporary, her commitment to making things has developed in conjunction with the development of a mode of communication that is uniquely hers – a language of line based patterns. This creative sensibility is illuminated in her later remark, “To teach is to seek to understand and then make sense of for others,” a practice she compared to the artist’s process of making and leaving behind personal artifacts. The mural Guterson drew is exactly this, a release. 

Talking about Nalo, her son of several months, and her grandparents, I came to comprehend the role of family in certifying her connection to art making. Sitting on the pavement of the parking lot as Guterson hugged to the wall to draw the last flower of her mural, she told me this was the third time Nalo and her had been separate for a several hour block. On prior occasions, he was strapped to her chest as she dragged her sharpie pen across white painted bricks to replicate patterns from her grandmother’s wedding dress on the leaves of drawn flowers. This collapsing of time and space runs through her work; a weaving of generations of familial history into floral landscapes that juxtapose imagery from the fabric and quilts of Black Americans and Eastern European Jews. It is this connection to family, and possible lack thereof, symbolized by her white Jewish grandmother not gifting her and her siblings with a quilt at the age of thirteen, or the legacy of enslavement inhibiting a clear drawing of ancestry, that has Guterson infusing her natural landscapes with historical motifs as a conduit for rebirth and growth. The white space in between the flowers allude to this, and complicate an already multifaceted relationship to the act of giving. “I needed to take up space because I was given space and I don’t feel that way anymore,” Guterson says. “I realized I didn’t need someone to gift me my heritage through a quilt or something. I had the ability to create my own language and a lot of healing through it.”

Olivia Guterson’s mural, 111 N Ashley St, 2020, Photo: Courtesy of Ann Arbor Art Center

Avery Williamson, an Ann Arbor based interdisciplinary artist, began making the meditative line paintings in 2017 in response to the epidemic of killings of black people at the hands of police. While these works existed primarily in black and white, a value scale consistently employed in Guterson’s drawings, “What the Water Gave Me” is painted with ultramarine, white, and payne’s grey acrylic paint and medium. The scattered marks, referenced by Williamson as “guts,” are produced throughout a long timeline of active processing, extended because of the scale of the work. Additionally, dictated by its size, Williamson stood above the metal panes, which lay face up on her studio floor, as she painted. This process, in which Williamson interacts with her “canvas,” or metal panes, in “as an arena in which to act”, (Rosenberg, 1952) is similar to painting methods of the mid twentieth century action painters. Harold Rosenberg, an American art critic and influential figure regarding Abstract Expressionism, wrote, “What was to go on the canvas was not a picture but an event.” Avery’s identity as a black woman offers an incredibly important perspective through which to reframe such critique, as many of the ascribed artists were white men, and see contemporary black abstraction through a process centric lens. Swimming through a series of events into a sea of expansive blue, this portal gives birth to the power of water and its dynamic currents into a hopeful future where black joy and healing are prioritized and unconstricted.

Avery Williamson, What the Water Gave Me, 113 W Washington St, 2020, Photo: Courtesy of the Ann Arbor Art Center

 The meditative actions, or modes of creation, of Olivia Guterson and Avery Williamson unveil murals that exist as archival documents for the public’s viewing. Both artists expressed this act of leaving behind as an important part of iterative processing; a glimpse into a passing of moments let go of. “The personal archive can tell us so much more because there are fewer hands mediating us and our relationship to the objects and the words,” William says. I believe our only option is to enter these portals to explore all that these two women have left for us to discover.

 

Olivia Guterson’s mural is on display at 111 N Ashley and Avery Williamson’s “What the Water Gave Me” at 113 W Washington. In addition to these aforementioned artists, the Ann Arbor Art Center also commissioned eleven other muralists, so don’t forget to check out the other exhibited work while you’re in downtown!

 

More of the artists’ work can be found below:

Olivia Guterson/Midnight Olive:

https://www.midnightolive.com/

https://www.instagram.com/midnightolive/?hl=en

 

Avery Williamson:

https://averywilliamson.com/

https://www.instagram.com/aisforavery/?hl=en

REVIEW: Another Round

In the world of film, nearly every drug and substance has had its day in court. Entire films and TV shows berate a single drug that ruins our protagonists’ lives, be it meth in Breaking Bad or heroin in Requiem for a Dream. And despite how difficult to watch these stories are, they are utterly believable—even for the majority of viewers who haven’t touched anything stronger than that one time at a college party when they did cocaine and woke up with the worst hangover they’d ever had. For the outsider looking into the world of drug addiction, it just feels obvious that “hard drugs” would lead to these downward-spiraling narratives of crippling addiction, broken homes, and dead friends. But where is alcohol in the canon of addiction stories?

 

In Danish director Thomas Vinterberg’s latest film, Another Round, Mads Mikkelsen (of Hannibal fame) plays Martin, a depressed high-school teacher who bands together with three of his similarly unfulfilled and aging teaching buddies to test out a radical new theory: that human beings were born with a blood-alcohol content 0.05% too low. Thus, achieving a constant state of 0.05% BAC will lead to increased stimulation, happiness, and ultimately purpose. So, the gang begins the experiment and starts drinking at work, pushing the limits of their alcohol tolerance as well as their ability to maintain a professional and social life.

 

The film opens with a scene featuring Martin’s students participating in a high school drinking game. The setting is a beautiful summer lakeside and everyone is very happy, carefree, and young—really, it feels more like summer camp than teenage debauchery. For the rest of the film, we watch as Martin and his very not happy, not carefree friends try to find more purpose in their jobs by drinking alcohol. It’s an asinine plan that the viewer knows will only end in misery, but we watch them try anyway because there’s a bit of humor to it, and, I think, we want them to find more meaning in their lives. 

 

As Martin starts to rekindle his relationship with his wife, we cheer him on when the screen cuts to black and proclaims his BAC: 0.00%. We hope for the very best, that Martin can get what he wants from his job and from his marriage, and can still get put down the bottle. It seems obvious that alcohol can only do so much for his very cold relationship with his wife, yet when things between them explode and Martin retreats to a messy, ugly drinking session with the gang (who have all similarly screwed something up), we too feel defeated, messy, and ugly. Things look very grim in the film’s third act, and it’s hard to see any light at the end of the tunnel.

Luckily, the film ends with Martin’s renewed hope to restore his marriage, and he breaks out into dance with his newly-graduated students, impressing them with his passionate, skillful interpretations of jazz ballet. He drinks a beer, but so are all of his students and thus feels casual. Besides, his focus seems much more so on dancing than his bottle. Purpose, for Martin—via the students that love him, the prospect of getting his wife back, and his old passion for dancing—seems to not require alcohol. Though in the film it doesn’t play out in a way that sounds this wholesome and corny, love and passion are what seems to save Martin from addiction. We can only hope that these newfound purposes are enough.

 

As expected, Martin and his friends’ experiment ends in disaster and most of them lose huge pieces of themselves in the process, be it their job, their spouse, or their life. In that way, this addiction story is no different than Requiem for a Dream or (in more recent years) Beautiful Boy. Where this film stands out, then, is in its exploration of the interplay between society and alcohol, and how one is able to go from healthy-enough social drinking to alcoholism. The happy-go-lucky drinking of the teenagers in Martin’s class is depicted as a goal that becomes further and further from the reach of the gang’s experiment. As they withdraw further from society—and each other—into drinking, it becomes clear what Vinterberg is trying to tell us about alcohol: that the more we lose purpose and disconnect from our fellow human beings, the less healthy drinking becomes. Martin’s hope for the future at the end of the film is thus to reconnect with those who give him purpose, those who inspire him to dance more than he drinks.

 

Enjoy responsibly—together.

 

Another Round (2020) is available to rent on Youtube and Amazon Prime.

 

REVIEW: New Red Order – Crimes Against Reality

What does it mean to commit a crime against reality? How is this realness defined through actions to capture and liberate it through additive transformations? What can experimental approaches to using technology do to construct alternative realities advocating for Indigenous futures? New Red Order (NRO) explores these issues in their first solo exhibition, Crimes Against Reality, at the Museum of Contemporary Art Detroit (MOCAD), which runs from October 1, 2020 until January 10, 2021. Amidst increasingly publicized conversations about race, nationhood, and equity worldwide, and particularly in the United States, New Red Order’s exhibition is showcased to the public during a time of long overdue reflection and gradual unlearning among the most privileged.

Crimes Against Reality exhibition view at MOCAD

The “public secret society,” a spinoff of the Improved Order of Red Men, an all white fraternal organization established in 1834 in response to desires to “play native,” was created in 2016 by core members Zach and Adam Khalil, of the Ojibwe tribe in Sault Ste. Marie, and Jackson Polys, of the Tlingit tribe in Alaska. By identifying as such, it classification exists in relation to anthropologist Michael Taussig’s concept of a “public secret,” developed in his book Defacement (1999), and described in depth in Kenneth Surin’s article, “The Sovereign Individual and Michael Taussig’s Politics of Defacement” as “among other things the creation of social subjects who ‘know what not to know,’ thereby instituting a pervasive ‘epistemic murk’ whose core is an ‘uncanny’ dialectic of concealment and revelation, though the secret revealed in this case is, qua public secret, not really a secret (49)” (206, 2001). NRO works to “confront” and “rechannel,” two words used by Jackson Polys, long standing and overlooked desires for indigeneity that lie at the core of our national identity as a way of clearing the murk.

 

New Red Order is future oriented and committed to expanding Indigenous agency, as stated within their “who are we” portion of their website, https://www.newredorder.org.  Approaching the 3 Cs – contract, concealment, and capture – as a methodology to create successful informants, another reference to anthropology, among non-Indigenous allies, this society fosters growth of decolonial perspectives, in physical and virtual realities. The films, Culture Capture: Terminal Addition (2019) and Never Settle (2020), their dark humor filled recruitment video, illuminate the process of building a virtual repository of monuments and museum artifacts, or the stolen collectibles framed as such. These rendered models, generated from differently angled captured photographs, are then mutated via a glitch, or series of phase changes, that transforms them. This glitch, or interruption of normalcy, calls for a reevaluation of hegemonic relations that we refer to as reality. Applying computer technology in investigational ways,  New Red Order succeeds in conducting “a small speculative step toward rectifying the violence committed by museum archives and the settler colonial icons that guard them.” (Never Settle, 2020) “The society of statues is mortal. One day their faces of stone crumble and fall to earth. This botany of death is what we call culture. And this is how we capture it.” (Culture Capture: Terminal Addition, 2019) 

 

New Red Order, Culture Capture: Terminal Addition, HD video, 2019, Photo: Courtesy of the artists

This day is among us. Now how do we, as settler colonial Americans, foster important discussions about overshadowed cultural issues, or culture as it was defined above, to devise a better and ultimately decolonial society? New Red Order: Crimes Against Reality is on display alongside two additional Detroit-based artists’ solo exhibitions, Conrad Egyir: Terra Nullius and Peter Williams: Black Universe. All three exhibitions close on January 10, 2021 so make sure you visit MOCAD, now open Thursday through Sunday, this weekend or late next week! 

 

You can find more information about the exhibition here: https://mocadetroit.org/event/the-new-red-order-crimes-against-reality/

 

Supplemental work of New Red Order can be found here: https://vimeo.com/adamkhalil