Wednesday, April 14, 2010
An interview with Chris Barton of Condiment magazine
Have you always had an interest in food?
When I was younger, I used to have nightmares about salad and, for most of my life, I have also suffered from a mild case of ‘fruit-a-phobia’. Jess (co-editor/designer) is allergic to most nuts, seafood and egg. With this in mind, while we are interested in food on a day-to-day level, there are certain parameters at play. This has made us approach things in a different way and to really question why things are the way they are and sometimes reverse the power relationship between humans and food.
Can you tell me how the idea for Condiment first came to life?
For us, food has always provided a framework for broader discussions and experience. A few years ago, Jess was living overseas for six months and I was in Melbourne; and we felt that we needed a way of maintaining this dialogue – even though we couldn’t actually buy groceries or eat meals together.
We aren’t chefs, cooks, or even 'foodies' — whatever that means — and we felt that there wasn’t much food-related media that talked around food rather than just about food. We eventually settled upon Condiment – Adventures in Food and Form as a basis that could properly balance and satisfy both our creative and culinary appetites.
What's in the first issue of the magazine? And what makes it different to your average (food) mag?
Issue 01 of Condiment doesn’t have a set theme, but in some way, you could say it is about embracing the idea of the amateur. The original definition of amateur is of course 'one who loves' and this has informed our approach to the publication and also our sourcing and selection of specific content.
Unlike most food magazines, recipes or places to go are low on our list of priorities. In this issue there are articles on anarchist gardeners and vegan chefs in Tokyo, clam gathering in New Zealand by Martino Gamper (artist and author of Total Trattoria), a collection of pottery and woven baskets collected by Ricky Swallow and a philosophical essay about watching an onion by E.C. Large. We also collaborated with our friend’s fashion label, ffiXXed, to make a four-sleeve wearable picnic rug and the outcomes of this are documented in issue 01.
Condiment is meant to cover "Adventures in Food and Form". What's the most adventurous eating experience you've ever had?
We can’t claim to be the kind of people that can put anything in their mouth and, although that has its place, that’s not what Condiment is about. For us, the adventure lies in what you end up understanding about something through experience or closer inspection — how an experience can change your perspective — not just about how it shocks your palate. That said, because of her allergies to certain things, Jess will eat almost anything else, while I’m quite happy to be the interested and slightly grossed-out onlooker.
One of my favourite artists is Vik Muniz, who has made amazing portraits out of chocolate, sugar, peanut butter & jam, spaghetti, etc. Can you think of any people who do fascinating things with food but aren't necessarily chefs?
There is, of course, a long history of food in the arts. While we plan to explore this more in the future, for the first issue, we have had a greater interest in the contemporary artists – we feature the work of an incredible Japanese photographer, Yumiko Utsu. Her work is both playful and sinister and she integrates food through both a mix of sculpture and photography and also collage. It is a very natural part of her practice, rather than a gimmick.
What do you have planned for the upcoming issues?
To be honest, right now we have no idea. We are going to let the dust settle on the first one and try and restore our perspective. As mentioned, we like to reverse the power relationship between ourselves and food so there is a chance that we might not have any say in it at all. Let the food decide!
For more details on the latest issue of Condiment, head to the magazine's website.