Aleksandra Mir

Don't Cook This Book

The Art of Eating - Don't Cook This Book
By Jill Santopietro
themoment.blogs.nytimes.com, New York, September 2009

The How Not To Cookbook
6 August - 27 September 2009
Collective gallery, Edinburgh

To most people, a cookbook is more like a museum than a gallery. Take Julia Child’s 'Mastering the Art of French Cooking.' Beneath the red jacket is enough information to stew over for hours and hours, just as you could spend days studying the American Painting wing at the Met.

But apparently a cookbook can be art, too. Until September 27, the Collective Gallery in Edinburgh, Scotland, is exhibiting The How Not to Cookbook: Lessons Learned the Hard Way. The gallery’s white-walled rooms now house row after row of identical black-bound books — a comforting sight in the post-encyclopedia age.

The rooms are only a fraction of the Polish-born artist Aleksandra Mir’s intended work. The book is the artwork, a social project open to anyone who wanted to give it meaning. In The How Not to Cookbook, Mir, whose fake postcards of Venice were a big hit at the recent Biennale (scroll down to the bottom of the page here to see them on The Moment), compiled words of wisdom from 1,000 people — lessons they’ve learned through their own mishaps in the kitchen — and arranged them in chapters like Bread, Eggs, Erotica and Mexico. Some of the advice is serious; some is odd. Several are obvious; others yield surprising discoveries. (“Do not boil avocado. Tastes like soap.”) This nontraditional exhibit expresses Mir’s style, which combines her interests in anthropology and interactive art.

The book was commissioned and produced by the Collective Gallery. Following the launch of both the exhibition and the Edinburgh Art Festival, the gallery hosted cooking workshops and events, including “Break It to Make It,” during which a chef cooked a giant omelet from eggs cracked by the crowd.
The book is a limited edition. A thousand went to the contributors; the other 1,000 are for sale. You can still purchase them by contacting the Collective Gallery. A pdf version will be available once the show ends.