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Our new food & design research collection. Here we will feature articles about design thinking and processes, food (of course), but more specifically food culture, cook book reviews, food and design trends and much more...

Table Talks: meet Inês, in the search of connections, social and cultural meanings around food

Updated: Jan 3, 2020

Hi Inês! Can you tell us first a bit more about what you do and your background?

Hi! I am an artist, and I work mostly between performance and installation, using food, people and spaces as metaphors and prompts for discussion and conversation. My work generally focuses on ideas around sustainability, narrative, collaboration and togetherness. I was born in Lisbon and I'm currently based in London, which is where I studied: first, a BA in Graphic and Media Design and Illustration at London College of Communication (2013) and, more recently, an MA in Visual Communication at Royal College of Art (2016).

Why do you think food and design are so related?

Design and food are intrinsically part of our daily lives. They are both sensorial experiences, one way or another, and are easily woven together. 

Can you tell us about Mesa supper club and how you came up with the idea?

Mesa is a project that exists in the form of various eating experiences, which challenge our encounters with art and are designed as platforms for creative discussion and conversation. As part of this project, I run events for which I invite an artist to collaborate with me: together we create a kind of exhibition-dinner: the artist gets to exhibit/share their work and I create a meal inspired by it and their general practice. In a way, it started as a way of democratising access to art and the creative practice, using the common ground of food. It all began when I first started organising monthly dinners while studying at the Royal College of Art, to which I'd invite people from many different departments to come together over food, under a theme of my choosing. The food would lead the conversation, without much need for verbal direction. It started as a solo project but quickly grew into a constant collaborative one, later becoming Mesa after I graduated. 

Can you tell us about some other projects you have worked on?

I recently co-curated an exhibition titled Tender Touches, which existed as a fully functioning café where everything was made by artists. It ran for 6 weeks between May and June and I led the café and created the weekly-changing menus, which drew inspiration from the artists in the show but also my own practice. The ideas for this exhibition relate quite closely to Mesa and my overall practice with food, and the space became a platform where visitors could engage with art and artists through food and conviviality. Even more recently, I was in Azores taking part in the arts festival Walk&Talk, where I continued developing my work around fermentation as a metaphor for collaboration and community. My interest in fermentation lies in a questioning and investigation of its role as archives of not only microbial life, but as records of place, time and emotional experience.  

We came to visit you at your Tender Touches exhibition, can you explain to our readers how this exhibition came together and who was involved?

This exhibition derived a lot from my own interests and research as a food-based artist, in collaboration with co-curator Huma Kabakci and her own connection to food and art as one. With Tender Touches, we aimed to challenge the traditional dynamics of a gallery space by proposing the cafe format as a platform to share ideas about collaboration, community and the creative practice. Huma Kabakci runs Open Space, an arts organisation supporting emerging art practices, and Tender Touches was part of their 2019 programme. We invited 11 artists to take part in the show and commissioned them to create a piece specifically for this concept. They were Bea Bonafini, Coco Crampton, Clementine Keith-Roach, Pixy Liao, Lindsey Mendick, Goia Mujalli & Cecillia Charlton, Marco Palmieri, Paloma Proudfoot, Magda Skupinska and Sofia Stevi.

Why was it so important to have so many different artists involved in the exhibition?

It was important than no element of the café was left to chance and that every piece of it was considered. We found that 11 artists was a good number to achieve this - and also the possible amount within budget and management constraints! This variety of artists brought different voices and approaches together under the same overarching concept, which, to me, achieved exactly what we aimed for!

How do you feel after having just completed this exhibition and what is next for you now that Tender Touches has ended?

Tender Touches was part of an idea that had been brewing in my mind for a long time. Being able to put it together and successfully pull it off was a dream come true - and certainly a learning curve! I feel very proud and happy in regards to what we achieved with it and still so overwhelmed by the number of incredible people I got to meet throughout! It has definitely become a seed for something similar to happen again in the future... Right after Tender Touches, I travelled to Azores to be part of the Walk&Talk festival, I went to Porto to be a tutor at the Illustration School summer programme and am now gearing up to my residency at Villa Lena in October! Winter time will bring a few smaller projects which I'm very excited about but can't quite reveal yet!

Thank you to Inês for answering these little questions for Crème zine and sharing with us her passion about food & art!

Follow her adventures over on Instagram @inesns & @mesa_supperclub

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