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KaiOctober 9, 2018

What do doughnuts and fried chicken have to do with art?

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Tonight in the Auckland CBD you might stumble across a tequila-soaked glamour queen and a T-Rex with no head — but don’t worry, you won’t go hungry.

What links a headless dinosaur and a vegan fried chicken burger? Art, that’s what.

StreetArtDego, now in its third year, teams artists with purveyors of street food, with each pairing collaborating on a food/art mash-up for a single night (tonight, Tuesday October 9) in downtown Auckland.

The idea is “to use food as a conduit for people to get into art”, says Courteney Peters of creative collective Gather & Hunt, who is producing the event with Rebecca Smidt, co-owner of restaurant Cazador, with the support of Heart of the City.

The concept began as a degustation experience — hence the name ArtDego — in 2012. Five chefs were teamed with five artists, with each pairing collaborating on a different course. Several dinners were held over the years until Peters decided to shake up the concept by creating a more casual iteration.

“It’s cool to be able to do StreetArtDego because it’s the accessible, for-the-people version,” she explains.

Hanna Shim’s ‘Alex the Headless’, and last year’s StreetArtDego (Photos: Supplied, Sacha Stejko)

The aforementioned dino-burger collab is the work of artist Hanna Shim and plant-based burger shack Wise Boys, and it’s about challenging perceptions, they say. The dinosaur, a tyrannosaurus rex with its head chopped off and a cross-section of watermelon in its place, is part of Shim’s ‘Headless’ series of soft sculptures. It’s intended to convey ambiguity and juxtaposition — the T-Rex is scary, the watermelon kitsch and cute — and is inspired by Korea-born, Auckland-based Shim’s experiences with dual nationality and identity crisis, she says.

Wise Boys’ fried chicken burger, meanwhile, is not actually chicken — it’s entirely vegan, which challenges preconceived ideas about what a burger should be. “It’s the idea of an indulgent burger without any meat or cheese,” explains Luke Burrows of Wise Boys.

Shim’s dinosaur and the Wise Boys burger truck will be side by side in Khartoum Place, the upper section of the two-level pedestrianised square that joins Lorne and Kitchener Streets. StreetArtDego also extends to the lower section, Te Hā o Hine Place, and the Women’s Suffrage Centenary Memorial mural that covers the walls by the stairs that connect the two.

Light-reflecting ‘caviar’ features in The Rolling Pin’s offering for StreetArtDego (Photo: Supplied)

The stairs and memorial are the focus of La Lumiere’s collaboration with The Rolling Pin. In light (pun not intended) of the 125th anniversary of women’s suffrage, the illumination artists of La Lumiere are installing a tunnel of light to draw visitors down the stairs towards the memorial. Gordon Kong, the chef behind dumpling truck The Rolling Pin, is creating a dish with his take on “caviar” — actually a vegan alternative made with agar-agar — that appear as little balls of light, linking in nicely with La Lumiere’s installation.

Steamed bun pop-up Judge Bao, meanwhile, has been paired up with Ngahuia Harrison (Ngātiwai, Ngāpuhi), an artist who works mainly in film and photography. “Her work is very much about land and sea and it’s very earth-toned,” says Debbie Orr, who runs Judge Bao with her partner Jamie Johnston.

Judge Bao’s “A taste of land and sea”/ “He reka o te whenua me te moana” (Photo: Supplied)

Harrison’s work, which draws on the maramataka or Māori lunar calendar, will be represented as three flags hanging from the balconies above Khartoum Place. Orr and Johnston have chosen to focus on the idea of steam, a cooking method that Chinese bao and Māori hāngī have in common. The bao, which they’ve called “A taste of land and sea”/ “He reka o te whenua me te moana”, will be an homage to rēwena bread, holding pōhutukawa-smoked Coromandel mussels, a hāngī-inspired baby agria potato and seaweed hash and a squid emulsion. “We’re using earthy tones, greens and greys, to reflect the colour scheme of her artwork,” explains Orr.

Lowbrow, the newish Queens Rise eatery of Culprit’s Kyle Street and Jordan MacDonald, is collaborating with light artist Angus Muir on a fried chicken installation. Muir’s light art will include bitmaps of chicken that have been distorted, and the Lowbrow team are “distorting” their fried chicken in response.

An early test run of Lowbrow’s ‘distorted’ chicken, created in response to Angus Muir’s light box installations (Photos: Supplied)

“We realised early on that because of the constraints of the space, it’s great to have performance and sculpture,” says Peters, “so it’s awesome to have Last Tapes performing.”

Robin Kelly and Cherie Moore of Last Tapes Theatre Company have just returned from the Edinburgh Fringe Festival, where their show Valerie won a Fringe First Award. The couple are collaborating with Danielle Butler of The Pie Piper, which makes deliciously nostalgic American-style pies and desserts.

“The challenge was that these guys were at the Edinburgh Fringe, working hard across the other side of the planet and then having to try to come up with a concept over conference calls,” explains Butler.

Robin Kelly and Cherie Moore of Last Tapes (Photo: Andi Crown)

The theme for the collaboration is “broken-down glamour”, focusing on a drag character called Neon Warwick. Butler is drawing inspiration from the retro cocktail tequila sunrise for her pie and doughnut offerings. “I’m kind of going for dirty-cigarette-bar-slash-early-70s-slash-90s-slash-2018,” she says.

Last Tapes, meanwhile, is creating a new song inspired by The Pie Piper’s offering.

Butler, who was company manager of Auckland Theatre Company in the late 90s and early 2000s, is relishing the opportunity to draw on her theatre background. “I love the whole creative, organic thing. What’s so amazing about music and food is that they both share that.”

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