Kim Upstill Kim Upstill

SWK residency (2016)

Soft Work Kitchen

Berlin, Germany 2016

Soft Work Kitchen was hatched for the Spring 2016 Chef/Artist residency at Agora Cafe. As per the outline of the residency Soft Work Kitchen took over the lunch service at the cafe five days a week as a cite of artistic research.

“Interested in emotional and physical labor, protection, provocation, kindness, intimacy, and habit, Soft Work Kitchen suggests a softness between the boundaries of lyrical research and hard fact, decoration and utility, good luck charms and public food.”

For the project five participants were interviewed per week for the month of April utilizing a synesthetic questionnaire to preface a verbal interview. Each interview was designed and guided to understand how the person’s specific aesthetics, preferences, and palette overlaid onto and described their emotional worlds. The resulting menu worked to respond conversationally to the interview and act as something between a dialogue, a nutrition plan, and a personalized color palette. Prepared daily by Kim with the help of volunteers, each dish was served and sold during one day of the month at the cafe as the lunch menu du jour. Snippets of the lyrical content that shaped each dish were written in place of a standard menu on the cafe’s blackboard, toying with the idea of an ingredient as something located in both the physical and the poetic. On the day their meal was served each participant was invited to eat at the cafe for free, where their meal was served to them along with a handwritten love note.

From serving fish head soup for loneliness, along with toast spread with the color of your mother’s kitchen table, to quail eggs encased in squid ink pasta to give protection in a cold city, or a rich burnt eggplant and pomegranate salad to commemorate the unexpected depth of a good date, the meals infuse public food with personal memory.

In Fall of 2016 Kim used the research and documentation from Soft Work Kitchen to create and publish a book that traces the arch of the residency, recounts the interviews and menus and co-mingles memory, photo documentation, messy notes, and careful love letters. The book also include original paintings made specifically for the plublication.