Enemy Kitchen is a public art project by Michael Rakowitz that explores the relationship between hospitality and hostility. Rakowitz and his mother collected and compiled recipes from the Baghdad area. These recipes are turned into dishes which are served by U.S. veterans of the Iraq War from a food truck designed by the artist.
The Enemy Kitchen project began in 2003 in New York City as a way for food to spark dialogue around Iraq in new ways, ultimately taking form as a food truck.
In storage since its last food service in 2012, the food truck has been victim to theft, graffiti, and other damage. We want to restore and repair the truck, bring it up to code, and park it on the front plaza of the MCA Chicago, where it will serve free food for the local community during pop-up activations during the exhibition.
Enemy Kitchen will be a key part of Michael Rakowitz: Backstroke of the West, a major exhibition and the artist’s first U.S. museum survey, which will open at the MCA on September 16, 2017.
Why is this Important?
Sharing a meal or a recipe is something that everyone can experience, no matter where they are in the world. Likewise, art has the power to connect people across geography, language, and culture. Bringing these two elements together, Enemy Kitchen will allow people to support, access, and experience a Middle Eastern food culture that was (and is still) disrupted by the Iraq War.
What will your contributions support?
As the MCA prepared for Michael Rakowitz: Backstroke of the West, it was clear that Enemy Kitchen was an important part of his art career and had to be a part of the exhibition. But there was a problem. After Enemy Kitchen’s last food service in 2012 the truck was put into storage in the parking lot of Babylon, a restaurant in North Chicago. Despite being locked up, the truck was broken into, stolen from, and vandalized with messages of hate. Mechanically the vehicle would not start, aesthetically it was damaged, and wasn’t up to preparing or serving food—Enemy Kitchen’s situation was dire.
If we work together, we can put Enemy Kitchen back on the road, bring it up to city code for working food trucks, and restore it as an artwork. This campaign will also support a full schedule of free community events where the truck will serve Iraqi cuisine to the public, for free.
By pairing with Kickstarter, the MCA hopes to reach a larger audience for Michael Rakowitz’s art and ideas— even if you cannot visit the truck or taste the food created there, you can make a meal using the Enemy Kitchen recipe cards or while wearing the apron and support the dialogue created around some of the most pressing issues our world faces. In this way the MCA is creating a forum for the public to interact with the artwork itself, no matter where they are since preparing and eating the meals is essential to the artwork itself.
As thanks for supporting the project, Kickstarter backers can receive a variety of rewards connected to Enemy Kitchen. Preview the rewards here; as some rewards are currently being created, not all rewards are shown but we will update as they are produced.
Saddam Hussein Replica Paperware 5-pack: $15 or more
Meal Ticket and Museum Admission for One: $25 or more
"Backstroke of the West" Catalog: $35 or more
"Bless Your Hands" Kubba Spoon: $35 or more
Sabreen: Live in Jerusalem LP: $60 or more
Enemy Kitchen Apron and Recipes: $75 or more
Chicago-Iraqi Flag: $2,500 or more
Shopping Trip with Michael Rakowitz: $5,000 or more
About Michael Rakowitz
Based in Chicago, Iraqi-American artist Michael Rakowitz (b. 1973) makes work that explores recent contested social, political, and cultural histories. Drawing on personal experiences and research on these subjects, as well as history and popular culture, Rakowitz creates illustrated objects, installations, and performances that invite viewers to contemplate their complicit relationship to the political world around them, recognizing that hospitality and hostility are interlinked.
About the MCA Chicago
The Museum of Contemporary Art Chicago (MCA) is one of Chicago’s major museums and one of the nation’s largest facilities devoted to the art of our time. The MCA is an artist-activated and audience-engaged contemporary art museum. We generate art, ideas, and conversation around the creative process. We are a cultural leader of local necessity and international distinction.
This campaign is endorsed by an independent jury selected by Art Basel.
Risks and challenges
Kickstarter community support will be essential in the complete restoration of Enemy Kitchen and a full schedule of free food service events for the community on the MCA Plaza. Without the support of the Kickstarter backers, we will have to pare back the free community events to a bare minimum.
Many of the rewards have been produced already and are currently in Michael Rakowitz's collection, or they can be reproduced easily since they would take the form of a work created in the past. The MCA will be responsible for administering the rewards which will be shipped as speedily as possible.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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