An exceptional exhibition, titled ‘The Edible Lab: Food, Culture & Design’, takes visitors on a flavourful and intricate journey with the works of 13 students at Virginia Commonwealth University School of the Arts in Qatar (VCUarts Qatar).
Led by designer and VCU arts Graphic Design chair Qatar Astrid Kensinger, the exhibition formed part of the Liwan Open Day and Exhibition Openings Sunday. This showcases the latest multidisciplinary design experiments and innovative research projects incubated at Liwan Design Studios and Labs.
Speaking to Gulf Times on the sidelines of the event, Kensinger said: “The Edible lab is a new elective undergraphic design at VCUarts Qatar. It’s looking at food, culture, design and really activating memories, oral histories, stories, so culture through the kitchen if you will.
“Each student chose one food so you can see, we have black seed, chili pepper, fig, we had the olive, mango, the date, pomegranate mushroom, lemon, Kiwi, banana, blackberry and onion.
“Each (student) did one and then they spent the semester researching how did that food come to Qatar, when did it come to Qatar, is it in your kitchen? If not, put it in the kitchen and make something with your grandmother and so they explored many different topics and themes through the lens of the kitchen.”
The participants included students: Selma Fejzullaj, Sharifa al-Attiayah, Al Maha al-Muftah, Amna al-Humaidi, Shouq al-Kuwari, Ohoud al-Saygh Black, Noof al-Atteya, Almaha al-Mahmoud, Alanood al-thani, Adila Hayati, Dalal Johar, Minseo Kim, and Fae Siddiqui.
The exhibition puts a spotlight on both tangible and intangible cultural heritage through personal stories, featuring traditions such as recipes, rituals, celebrations, feasts, and superstitions, in addition to grandmothers’ advice.
Visitors are given the opportunity to explore the richness and complexity of these traditions at the exhibition – presented at Liwan for the first time. It combines posters and books that draw from students’ personal experiences and connections to the ingredients.
In running a research lab called ‘The Intangible Lab’, which looks at the intangible cultural heritage of Qatar, Kensinger said she hopes to activate students who become activists in cultural preservation, and to listen and seek out memories from grandmothers, mothers, and aunts.
“So that's part of what we did so each student made three posters, one poster was the anatomy of the food, one poster was a recipe with the food, one poster was “how to” with the food, and they also made books that house all the information, and if you click on the QR codes you can hear oral histories from the students’ perspectives,” she said.
The second exhibition highlights the results of three workshops conducted by different artists at Liwan: first, “Creating Contemporary Wooden Sculptures,” led by interior architect Suzana Joumaa; second, “The Monobloc: A Chair for One, A Chair for All,’ led by interdisciplinary designer Majdulin Nashrallah”; third, “The Kimono and the Abaya: Cultural Hybrids through Fashion”, led by fashion designer Sayuri Kurotsu.
Results from the workshop by Suzana Joumaa. PICTURE: Joey Aguilar
Astrid Kensinger at the ‘The Edible Lab: Food, Culture & Design’ exhibition at Liwan Design Studios and Labs Sunday. PICTURE: Joey Aguilar