If you’re looking to experience contemporary art, fine dining and cutting-edge technology at this year’s Art Basel Miami Beach, look no further than Aerobanquets RMX, where artist Mattia Casalegno and chef Chintan Pandya have associates to present a futuristic meal that you eat with a VR headset.
Since diners cannot see their food in the real world, an animated rendering of each bite-sized dish appears in virtual space as it is served. As a result, there are no preconceived ideas of what to eat and diners find their senses heightened, every flavor affected by what they hear seen in the virtual reality space.
“Your senses are more open. You are more attentive and aware of what you are eating,” Casalengo told Artnet News. “VR is a game for me. It’s a way to expand your senses and focus more on taste and texture.
Eating a meal this way is remarkable. Animations swirl around you in virtual space, transporting you to mysterious voids populated by floating fruit and musical instruments, or monumental classical statues. Food writer Gail Simmons, whose soft voice you might immediately recognize from her 16 years as a best boss judge – narrates the meal, explaining each dish in one bite.
This extremely unique culinary and artistic experience, which Casalegno first presented at Shanghai’s Chronus Art Center in 2018, is a special event at Superblue Miami just for this year’s Art Week, presented with Meta Open Arts and produced by Flavor Five Studio.
Aerobanquets also appeared at the James Beard Foundation in New York in 2020, but this is the largest release yet, seating up to 16 people per meal. Each time, Casalegno collaborates with a new chef, tweaking the virtual reality visuals and soundtrack to accompany the new menu.
“It’s really beautiful to work with artists from so many different disciplines,” he said. “It’s like making a movie.”
Dinner at Aerobanquets requires a reservation, and diners can choose between a five-bite, 30-minute version of the experience for $58, or the $200 VIP meal, which lasts an hour and includes 10 bites and alcoholic beverages. Highlights of the VIP version include a soft milk bread topped with mushrooms and lentils, and a bite of very spicy Hudson Valley foie gras.
Although the event is set on 21st century technology, Casalegno’s vision is very much rooted in the history of 20th century art. The Aerobanquets the title is a reference to the Italian artist Filippo Tommaso Marinetti The futuristic cookbooka manifesto published in 1932. It includes an Aerofood recipe – “black olives, hearts of fennel and kumquats presented with matching flags of sandpaper, silk and velvet (eat with your right hand and stroke the flag with your left).”
Marinetti’s concepts provided the guiding principles for Casalegno (who is also Italian), requiring a meal eaten without knives, in singular bites, with bizarre sound effects and other technological improvements.
“It was very experimental,” Casalengo said.
The artist had to do quite a bit of trial and error himself to come up with a mixed reality format that would work for diners, allowing them to pick up and eat their food without making a mess.
There’s a special cup with a flat top that each dish rests on, and a waiter demonstrates before the meal how to rest it against your chin, open your mouth, and tilt your head back to ingest the food. (The dishes are designed so that no liquid sauce drips onto your shirt.)
“For a chef, it’s a very interesting challenge to create such complexity in such small bites,” Casalengo said. “We had to find ways to get all the flavors and textures in one bite. It’s about creating layers.
“Aerobanquets RMX” is presented at Superblue Miami, 1101 NW 23 Street, Miami, Florida, from November 28 to December 4, 2022.
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