Last September Chicago-based Michael Rakowitz was announced as the 2020 Nasher Prize Laureate (the recipient of an award that’s essentially the Pulitzer Prize of sculpture). This weekend, the first of a series of events will kick off with an international community barbecue, one that declares his overlap and focus on food. He will partner with the Dallas-based public art group Break Bread, Break Borders. And the barbecue they offer will be like nothing you get in Dallas. It will be community art.
Rakowitz makes work that is community-oriented, which is why his series The Invisible Enemy Should Not Exist debuted in Malmo, Sweden with banquets arranged alongside the Iraqi community’s involvement. Here, Dallas-based Break Bread, Break Borders will partner with Rabowitz in a barbecue event held Saturday at the F.A.R.M. (Farmers Assisting Return Military) site in South Dallas. Expect key Iraqi dishes as well as Syrian dishes and several from Rwanda; kebabs more than brisket and ribs. It’s an intentionally international barbecue, reflecting the backgrounds of the female refugee cooks who are the backbone of Break Bread, Break Borders, a group that brings their food and stories through conscious catering.
Who is Rakowitz and why a barbecue picnic before his show opens in the small gallery at the Nasher in March? It’s no surprise if you know the Iraqi-born Rakowitz’s work. Food has long been part of his message. There was the powerful public art piece that graced one of the plinths in Trafalgar Square in London—a meticulous reconstruction, in date syrup cans, of an ancient Assyrian statue destroyed by ISIS in 2015 in the old city of Nimrud. A show in Cleveland in 2018 included the favorite foods of Tamir Rice, a young boy gunned down by police in 2014, and it led to the murdered child’s mother later cooking for Rakowitz—food as a form of healing. The artist published a cookbook last year with recipes from chefs that use the syrup from the date palm. It’s a gorgeous book in which Iraqi-inspired eggs with date syrup for breakfast are a link to a deep culinary-historico-political thicket of connections and holes Rakowitz’s work is always trying to fill in.
“He challenged them [the Nasher folk] and said, ‘I’d like to do this, this is what I do. What do we have in the community that we can build together?’” says Jin-Ya Huang, founder of Break Bread, Break Borders, who was recently invited to join the Presidential Leadership Scholars Program. “They said, ‘We know exactly the people.’ The moment he heard about what we had been doing, he said, ‘That’s exactly what I’d love to do in this community.’”
On the phone, Huang says, they were already finishing each other’s sentences. “It was a conversation about how cooking and food as an art form surrounds all that we do.”
Saturday, Feb. 8, 11 a.m.until 2 p.m.
F.A.R.M near the Dallas Farmers’ Market, 700 South Good Latimer Expressway
Details: Free with registration. Free parking is available.