food in the arts 日本語




At the second London Food Film Fiesta a team of expert Japanese chefs led by Kyoichi Kai and Miguel Choy demonstrated that there's much more to this esoteric cuisine than sushi and sashimi.

Nowhere has greater care and imagination been given to the presentation of food than in Japan. The delicacy and exquisiteness of Japanese table arrangements are matched only by the fragile beauty of Japanese painting.

Traditionally the Japanese bride received as many as 50 different kinds of dishes as wedding gifts, and she might use a dozen at one meal. She would devote the most painstaking attention to the angle at which a sprig of green vegetable was propped against a lump of crabmeat, or the way a fish was garnished. Meals were served in many small dishes, but the total amounts offered each diner were large.

The waters around Japan abound with fish and shellfish, and Japanese seafood is regarded by many gourmets as the finest in the world. Fish is eaten raw (sashimi), broiled, fried in deep fat (tempura), or salted and broiled (shioyaki). The popular tempura method of deep frying food was learned from Portuguese traders who came to Japan in the 16th century. Rice has been the staple; it traditionally accompanied every meal; but in the late 20th century wheat products such as bread have become common, especially as an accompaniment to Western-style food. Sushi, or vinegared rice, is served in stylized portions with a variety of accompaniments, including mushrooms, squid, fish, shrimp, and caviar.

The Japanese like clear soups, garnished with eggs, vegetables, or seafood. The thicker “miso” soups are flavoured with fermented soybean paste. Japanese vegetables include bamboo shoots, snow peas, eggplant, mushrooms, and potatoes. The popular sukiyaki consists of beef and vegetables simmered in soy sauce. Pork or chicken may be substituted for the beef. SakÚ, a fermented beverage made from rice or other grain, is a popular drink, and tea is taken with all meals and at virtually all hours of the day.

The Japanese tea ceremony, or chanoyu, is a highly formalized ritual dating back to the 13th century. The tea is meticulously prepared and is accompanied by a variety of delicate seasonal dishes. Every aspect of the ceremony—the setting, the flavours and textures of foods, the colours and shapes of the containers, even the conversation—is carefully calculated to achieve the most harmonious and satisfying effect.

An outgrowth of the tea ceremony is the kaiseki, the grande cuisine of Japan; it is the highest form of Japanese dining and perhaps comes as close to dining as an art form as any in the entire world of gastronomy. The food served in kaiseki is selected according to the changing seasons and is presented through a series of small dishes with an artful simplicity that brings out the unique tastes of ordinary foods from nearby mountains and sea. Perhaps the key to the composition of the kaiseki meal lies in the word aishoh: “compatibility.”

From 1995 to 2002, avant-garde artist Matthew Barney wrote, directed, and starred in the Cremaster Cycle, five offbeat films featuring unusual situations and bizarre characters. Since 1987, he has also been working on the Drawing Restraint series, in which he uses physical weights and barriers to make the creation of his art more difficult--and more rewarding in the end. In 2005 he released DRAWING RESTRAINT 9, a film about a man (Barney) and a woman (Bj÷rk, Barney's real-life wife) who board a Japanese whaling ship and participate in some strange rituals and ceremonies involving a tank filling up with 45,000 pounds of petroleum jelly. Director Alison Chernick documents the making of DRAWING RESTRAINT 9 in MATTHEW BARNEY: NO RESTRAINT, mixing in clips from the film, behind-the-scenes interviews, and home-movie footage of Barney playing high-school football. She also examines Barney's entire career, speaking with gallery owner Barbara Gladstone, New York Times art critic Michael Kimmelman, Guggenheim curator Nancy Spector, and Yuko Hasegawa, chief curator of the 21st Century Museum of Contemporary Art in Kanazawa, Japan, which presented a major exhibition on the Drawing Restraint series, including a screening of the film, in the summer of 2005. It is not essential to have seen DRAWING RESTRAINT 9 before seeing MATTHEW BARNEY: NO RESTRAINT, which is more than just a making-of documentary; it's about the creative process itself. The ethereal music is provided by Bjork and Mayumi Miyata.


art and food

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Tomoko Sawada

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Matthew Barney - Drawing Restraint 9