Tongues are cool
Eggplants, pomegranates, lentils, olive oil, chilis, cherry tomatoes, lemons, onions, dill seeds, lamb, coconuts, sesame seeds and…These are some of the many ingredients Mirna Bamieh used tonight at Tanzquartier to create a delicious menu for twenty-six guests. I was one of them, ready to be open, raw and excited for the studio door to be open, to enter and admire Mirna’s style, wearing a colorful traditional Palestinian long dress, welcoming us to sit at the predominantly well-set table she had previously prepared. Mirna Bamieh founded a live art project called Palestine Hosting Society in 2017. The aim: to explore and investigate the traditional food culture of Bamieh’s home country, Palestine, and revive dishes (that are fading from memory). Ingredients and food that shouldn’t be forgotten. It feels like a statement of true and deep emotional importance. Now, attempting seduction is hard work and Mirna seems well-versed in how to draw us in and beguile us with her charm. She selects the most direct and uncontroversial way of using language throughout the entire meal. A conductor of her orchestra. A storyteller for each ingredient or dish, explaining its frame of reference, associated memories and perceptions. Stories we pass on from one generation to another. The full evening dinner lasts around three hours. We start with a set of appetizers: yellow turmeric bread, mixed olives, fermented vegetables or the unwrapped homemade labneh, a yogurt cheese that has been strained to remove its whey, giving it a rich, thick consistency. All are very satisfying and served in precious ceramic objects, made by the artist herself. One of these interesting objects is the large, heavy decanter that consists of four connected jars. Two people have to use it together in order to serve the ruby-red hibiscus juice. Magic moments of timing and mingling of strangers who have to interact, connect and get to know each other. As a main dish Mirna introduces two regional choices of Maftoul, Palestinian couscous served alongside a slow-cooked lamb stew with shallots to be seasoned with a lemon-chili sauce or fermented salty lemons. As 6 to 8 portions are served in big ceramic pots, vegetarians are segregated to one end of the long table. Terrific fun. In the background, we hear an ongoing sound composition created by Joshua Bearwald and Christie Echols. So then, as is customary, the desserts are about to arrive. We have to stand up and go to an auxiliary table with plenty of beautiful ceramic objects and a fantastic cinnamon rice pudding combined with Palestinian sweetmeat of carob syrup with sesame seeds and nigella seed tahini. Together we decide how to place these delights on the main table and taste their flavors. A true pleasure for the palate. During this evening’s experience, I could feel a small flame, building up inside of me, all over my body, dancing around my chest. It went up to my throat, climbed onto my tongue, brushed my lips and stood in front of me, looked inside my brain and smiled. When I blinked, it was gone, back inside of me, patiently waiting to be roused again. I think I’m in love with Karkadeh, the hibiscus-infused drink. Tonight, the food made my tongue melt! Mirna hopes that she has changed the way we look at Palestine and closes the evening with the wish to give a voice to those nations that are not being heard.
Laia Fabre was born in Barcelona and lives in Vienna. She is a multidisciplinary artist whose practice emits an uninhibited, spontaneous and energetic spirit. Her artwork comes in decidedly varied formats. Performance, video, choreography, drawing, painting combine playful energy with a bright and optimistic color palette. She earned a Master of Fine Arts at the Academy of Fine Arts Vienna. Her artistic output exposes the habits and stereotypes of its environment. It’s ironic, loud and employs a humoristic discourse, which uses the mundane as its main setting. The intensity of her work springs from an eagerness for contemporaneity. The message is more important than the technique in her works – all of which are used to rub salt into the wounds of the problems and contradictions in our world. @laiiafabrre, notfoundyet.net