Interview with Jeschkelanger & Hayk Seirig for Empty_Glass 05— a work of art for A Plus A gallery co-created by the artistic duo, the chef, and the public

The artistic duo Jeschkelanger collaborated with chef Hayk Seirig to present Empty_Glass 05. This immersive and overwhelming symposium resulted in an artwork exhibited at A Plus A gallery in Venice for the exhibition Anecdotes on Origin. Empty_Glass 05 and Anecdotes on Origin were organized by The School for Curatorial Studies Venice. Find my interview with Anja Langer and Marie Jeschke (Jeschkelanger) at the end of the article.

Jeschkelanger, Empty_Glass 05, School for Curatorial Studies Venice, Ca’ Sagredo Hotel. Credits Kristi Giambattista

Jeschkelanger is a Berlin-based artist duo founded by Anja Langer and Marie Jeschke in 2016. Called by the students of The School for Curatorial Studies Venice, they invited international curators and writers to Ca’ Sagredo Hotel for a symposium. This was intended as a convivial philosophical discussion amongst a meal, as ancient Greeks would have it. Food was served directly atop a handmade, special cut glass table, leaving a multi-sensorial index. The only ‘cutlery allowed’ were some twice baked plantain and fried rice pancake. This increased the interactions between the commensals and the glass surface. The final artwork— the glass-tables, each fixed singularly on a wall— was indeed shaped by the guests, the chef, and the artists during the art-lunch.

Four glass plates… empty glass. An origin still to be determined in time and space. The polished surfaces soon begun to get smudged by runny quail yolks, a dense watermelon cream, and olives & chocolate soils. The guests gave a new identity to common, everyday glass, turning it into a work of art. The artists and the chef provided the tools, by creatively intermixing ingredients and traditions together, forging newly discovered tastes and experiences.

Jeschkelanger, Empty_Glass 05, School for Curatorial Studies Venice, Ca’ Sagredo Hotel. Credits Kristi Giambattista

On display at A Plus A gallery for the show Anecdotes on Origin, the final artwork consists of the four glass panes that were used as tables/plates during the event. Only now they hang vertically on a wall. Only now they are marked by the passing of people, food, and their shared experiences. The no-longer immaculate surfaces are now marked by traces of finger-tips, relics of food, trails of sauces and oils; by now dried and crystallized on the glass.

The multi-course menu served directly on the glass saw each course overlapping. The menu evolved from a series of cherished recipes that each student of the School for Curatorial Studies Venice gave away— Russian Syrniki, Italian pasta al ragù, Iranian Ghormeh Sabzi… Seirig and the artists collaborated to invent a menu that reflected the origins of these recipes, relating their research to the mysterious concept of ‘origin’ more broadly.

Jeschkelanger, Empty_Glass 05, School for Curatorial Studies Venice, Ca’ Sagredo Hotel. Credits Kristi Giambattista

The menu started indeed from a (quail) egg. Shortly after, the glass was stained by foamed infant milk formula, a breast-milk surrogate. Egg and milk equate the origin of lifeforms and the necessary nutrition from the mother. These were followed by a watermelon soup (blood), and candied olives and coca beans, crumbled to form soil. After ‘creating the Earth’, recipes and ingredients become increasingly more complex, including octopus tentacles, Malaysian spiced sauce, to stones, Dahl…

The conversations and gestures merged into a shared experience. Encouraged by the conviviality and togetherness created around the table, the invites left a tangible impression on it. The glass panel left behind, consulted as a protocol by the artistic duo, was the final artwork presented at the Venetian gallery.

“Every guest, no matter how silent and circumspect, is visible through their position and gestures on the glass plate,” recited Jeschkelanger.

The fragile, depersonalised, and tasteless glass, interestingly compared by Langer and Jeschke to “the surface of our phone we now touch more often than our friends,” became a vibrant, personal and mouthwatering recipient.

Jeschkelanger, Empty_Glass 05, School for Curatorial Studies Venice, Ca’ Sagredo Hotel. Credits Kristi Giambattista

Here follows my interview with Anja Langer and Marie Jeschke.

Irene Machetti: I know your artistic practice is based on the transformation of everyday, domestic glass previously used as tables, windows and doors, into Contact Zones. More recently, this Contact Zones started integrating food in a convivial and collective way, involving chef Hayk Seirig, its recipes and a new public. Let’s start from the beginning, why did you choose glass?

Anja Langer: Glass is hard but it also shatters easily. Glass in itself is fragile and tasteless [depersonalised, as well]. It’s interesting to compare it with the surface of our phone. We now touch it more often than our friends and this created a detachment between us and what’s around us. Thanks to the project Empty_Glass glass acquired a soul.

Marie Jeschke: Also, on the glass everyone is equal, everyone is represented by the marks they left on the surface. It is intimate and intimidating. It’s hard but doesn’t hide you. Here we also linked it to the idea of the toilet— when in a toilet you make yourself pretty, but it’s also a really base ambient. [During Empty_Glass 05 guests seated on toilet-like floor mats. Each one of us was also provided with a roll of toilet paper to be used as tissues.].

IM: How did you come to the art world?

MJ: We started from totally different fields. Anja with painting, and me from performance art. When we started collaborating, which was coincidence of working in the same studio, we picked up glass at the same time. We like its being transparent, being there but also being invisible. You don’t always notice glass, especially when it forms part of a table, a door, a window… We invented a technique to connect pigments with glass, what we called Basis Rho. This creates a hybrid material of multicolored glass stones and concrete.

IM: How did Empty_Glass start?

AL: Back in 2017, we wanted to make a Christmas dinner but we had very little money. At that time we had just met Heyk and got blown away by the way he talked about food and about meeting people. So we asked him how to throw a party with only 60€, and he did so! We wanted to have a dinner for twenty people, more or less. He came to see our work in our studio, first, to get inspired. We decided together, almost instinctively, to not use cutlery. We wanted to rely only on glass as a surface. People stayed for so long! All night and the morning after, even. It was a real success.

IM: I’ve heard you saying you don’t really like these events to be labelled as a performance. Why is it so? It does seem performative. There are those element of live action, public interaction, and synesthesia peculiar to performance art.

AL: For us it’s a symposium rather than a performance. It’s about drinking, eating, and sharing but always with some topic to talk about and to discuss. We always have a subject. And this subject leads the way, it inspires the menu and shapes the conversations around the table. To us, this project is poly-positional. It fuses things together. It doesn’t exist side by side, or in an intersectional space.

MJ: To us this project is really important also because it has a strong element of self empowerment. We can perform it without any gallery any, museum, or institution. For instance, it can be a Christmas Dinner in our studio. It’s not an institution that tells us our value. We decide it for ourselves.

Jeschkelanger and Hayk Seirig, Empty_Glass 05 29/08/2019, in collaboration with the Ca’ Sagredo Hotel

Anecdotes on Origin
August 31 – November 16, 2019 A plus A Gallery – San Marco 3073 Venice, Italy Gallery Hours | Tuesday – Saturday 11:00 – 18:00

Curators: Eduardo Alfonso (USA), Sonia Barbey (CHE), Philip Balimunsi (UGA), Danielle Freakly (AUS), Kristi Giambattista (CAN), Sammy Ng Sock Hwa (SGP), Veronika Hykova (CZE), Priyansha Jain (IND), Yana Malysheva-Jones (RUS), Rita Martins (PRT), Alfredo Martorelli (ITA), Marianna De Marzi (ITA), Analize Nicolini (BRA), Inês Pinto de Faria (PRT), Afra Safa (IRN), Devanshi Shah (IND), Ilethia Sharp (USA), Gabrielle White (AUS), and Rebecca Yeoh (MYS)

About Irene Machetti

Whenever there is an exhibition opening, expect to find me there, with a glass of wine in one hand, and my phone on the other, to take pictures and record my emotions. The rest of my life is spent studying art history at the Courtauld Institute of Art, and, especially, baking cakes and lasagne for my loved ones.