website SITE is intended to offer an ever evolving insight into my practice: both as an artist and a worker. I am using the categories of Projects, Services and Collaborations to provide multiple entry points into my work. Ideally visitors will be able to make links between each of these sections, as an important aspect of my artistic production is recognizing the ways in which all of my labour (artistic and otherwise) overlap in ideas and ideals.
I am not restricted by medium, instead my works take on the forms required to best represent the ideas and concepts considered by each project. In many of my works I bring everyday items into the rarefied space of the gallery, and it might not always be clear what constitutes the work. My practice produces a minimal amount of waste.
I take on many different roles and positions in order to make it possible for me to make my work and my life sustainable. Gig work, such as cooking and preparing crew lunches, providing education workships, djing parties, working as a house painter or as a barista in a coffee shop, allows me time and flexibility to make work as an artist.
As I am not tied to any specific medium I often work with others to produce aspects of my work. This assistance is integral in helping me to realize my vision into material. With such a focus on labour in my work, it is important that these workers are paid fair labour costs when helping to produce work.
VIVA ART ACTION KITCHEN / The Mobile Kitchen Lab Extended
VIVA ART ACTION / Centre Clark / Montreal / Canada
VIVA ART ACTION KITCHEN / The Mobile Kitchen Lab Extended
Cooked by Basil AlZeri
Everyday at 6:30pm
Join us for a warm meal and informal conversations before each evening of performances. Diners will be prepared daily by Basil AlZeri, a Toronto-based artist whose commitment to feeding the community is a direct extension of his artistic practice. Healthy, affordable and delicious, these meals are a well-loved staple of every edition of VIVA!
Jacob Wren writes: (DAY FIVE: Anxiety, food, love, glass, spices, knives, toast, drag.)
I arrive late, introductions have already started, and I feel, for a moment, rushed and anxious. I often feel rushed and anxious, and I believe that implicit within the idea of performance is also a kind of anxiety, an anxiety that is only natural when one person is doing something that many others are watching. NOW WOULD BE A GOOD TIME TO MENTION THAT Basil AlZeri HAS MADE COMPLETELY AMAZING FOOD FOR THE PAST FIVE NIGHTS. THE FOOD HAS BEEN INCREDIBLE. SOME OF THE BEST MEALS I’VE HAD IN RECENT MEMORY. Now he is hunched over the edge of the pool dropping cutlery into a large metal bowl. At least I think that’s what’s happening, I’m once again seated where I can’t see, producing more low-level anxiety. (*****Basil AlZeri*****) I can’t see but I believe he is lowering everything he used to make the amazing meals for the past week, lowering or dropping each item slowly into the pool. Amazing food but now its done and good riddance to the whole set up and kit. I’ve spent the past five days typing for the site, so maybe I should lower the entire internet into the pool. I like the idea of the internet as a physical thing that can be dropped, that can be picked up, that can smash and not just crash. The performer walks into the pool, rolls a small platform on wheels across the length of the pool but as soon as it arrives it starts to roll back. Then he runs all of his supplies, food, pots, convector oven, runs each item right across the pool one at a time. I now feel my first impression was wrong, it was not good riddance in any sense, he will set up the kitchen but this time in the pool. He has a knife and a giant bag of onions, cutting the top and bottom from each onion and laying them out. (Earlier today I was making the joke – re: the American government being shut down – that all mainstream newspaper editors currently writing headlines, because news today is so absurd, are in fact only auditioning for jobs at the satirical newspaper The Onion.) The smell of the cut onions is actually starting to make me cry. Reading the newspaper also often makes me cry, and I always feel so pathetic when it does. And anxiety makes me cry. And the internet. As he is cutting onions he makes a phone call and speaks to someone in another language, I am embarrassed to admit I don’t know which one. (I will check his bio after for clues.) I’m actually starting to find the smell of cut onions overpowering, he is now chopping them up. I basically don’t cook and this fact also produces anxiety. When I watch someone cooking I always feel as if I’m watching some strange ritual from another planet, something I will never understand or really know how to do. In some fundamental way I believe this relates to performance. For some reason a phrase just appeared in my mind: there is no life without rules. Maybe I think this because in some sense you can’t cook without a recipe. He picks up a large bag of already chopped onions and pours it over the onions he just chopped, takes out a bag of chicken, pours it onto another cutting board, sprinkles spices over the chicken and onions. (I once read an amazing book about the history of spices: Tastes of Paradise by the German historian Wolfgang Schivelbusch.) As I said, I don’t know anything about cooking, it seems cooking is about to happen, but instead he starts getting undressed and washes his face, head and torso from a small bowl of water, puts on a clean white shirt, clean socks, brand new shoes, sweater and apron. Another thought jumps into my mind: cooking has something to do with love. He is trying to light a gas element and it’s not working. Anxiety. Then, after awhile, it works. He keeps looking at his computer and I wonder if he’s checking a recipe. There is a long period of waiting, if I knew something about cooking perhaps I could ascertain why, maybe something is marinating, then a slide show, a single frame with four photographs (polaroid’s?) as he smokes a cigarette. He is waiting, makes another phone call, same unidentified language. I now think maybe we’re waiting for someone to bring something here, something from the outside world. Waiting is also often connected with anxiety. Now he’s on skype. Were we waiting for him to skype with his mother? For his mother to be ready? (Later we learn it is 4 a.m. her time.) At any rate, that is what they are doing. There is that expression: you can choose your friends but you can’t choose your family, but I’ve always thought it wasn’t exactly true. You can’t really choose your friends: they either happen or don’t. His mother is now leading him through the recipe step by step as he cooks. Cooking has something to do with love. I don’t think I would ever agree to do a performance with either of my parents, not even on skype, even though both my parents are completely supportive and great. He is talking with his mother and they are cooking together, the chicken is going into the giant pot. I wonder if my parents might go on line and read this. I suddenly realize that he dressed up – put on a new shirt and sweater, a clean apron – in order to skype/cook with his mother and I find this fact almost unbearably moving, like something from a previous era, a previous era in which they also had skype. I stop typing for a very long time as they cook together. Sometimes, in English, he describes the meal they are making, translating his mother’s explanation, but I don’t type that part. Then later, near the end, he says “this is a Palestinian dish,” (I suppose also the language they are speaking) and it feels important so I take out my computer again. Waiting in line (for the dish I watched him cook) I’m again late for the next performance.
Credits and Thank You's:
photo documentation: Guy L'Heureux. volunteer photographers: Christian Bujold et Florence Larose
Thanks: Josh Schwebel, Sonja Zlatanova, Michelle Lacombe, Alexis Bellavance, Manon Tourigny, Florence S. Larose and Leonie Dupin