As a part of the Abstract Accessories, the disneyland can wait cookbook is a comment to a movement of heretic couture, reversing parts of the logic in the fashion belief system. What happens if we reverse the pret-a-porter belief, and create own relations and crafts, but still intersecting with the major flows if fashion. Tuning the current, but keeping the power on. Being heretic, but still a defender of the faith.
The Abstract Accessories share an approach as methods. The product per se is not the object of design, but the method itself. As such these cookbook processes are methods, inspirational methods, not instructions. I will elaborate shortly on this to make it more clear.
As practical methods the Abstract Accessories, and especially the "disneyland can wait" cookbook, take the form of manuals, hands-on step-by-step processes engaging in material or immaterial metamorphosis. Quite like mathematical functions, with units and elements transforming through various relations and calculations, the cooking session follows the advices of a cookbook. Ingredients are refined, mixed and moved in and out of the oven, multiplied, added, divided. However, unlike most mathematical symbols the ingredients of the cookbook is hands-on real, it has taste and consistency, and this is the quality to be transformed and used. For example, we learn more about ginger by working with it and we learn about its nature, how it affects and operates as a part of a blended taste, more than we get to learn the nature of a number.
In this way a cookbook helps to open new fields of activity. Ginger might become a part of our everyday kitchen, but we might also further our knowledge into a true connoisseurship. A habitual use of an ingredient might turn into an adventure, and after some time we can let go of the cookbook and experiment for ourselves. This is inspiration.
To further pinpoint this difference let us look at a plastic airplane model, like one I built as a child. This airplane model had a glossy box with a nice drawing or photo on the cover, floating lightly across the cloudy sky. At this young age I tried to master the skills of plastic model building and after some training the joints between the parts become almost invisible and the shape of the model could even look like the plane the cover. When finished I added some paint and national marks on the wings. It was perfect. But as I looked closer and compared the model with the cover image it was like the invisible god of model building slapped me in the face. I had forgotten to paint the pilot and cockpit! They were still plastic grey, reminding that my plane was no real plane, no real reproduction. This model was a test of discipline more than skill. No matter how exact the joints, I had failed the test.
Similarly we can look at IKEA manuals for assembling furniture. If you follow the process exactly as given from IKEA you will get the bookshelf you saw in the shop. Without a good toolbox it will be hard for you to change this process. For example, to turn the bookshelf into a table. And no matter how many pieces of IKEA furniture you build, you will have a long way to become a carpenter (you are just a continuation of their factory, an unpaid assembly worker). And no matter how many plane models I built, I never became an aviation engineer.
But with the cookbook it is different. For every dish I make, I reclaim a small portion of the kitchen. Instead of using the ready-made sauces, which in a way are very democratic, I learn how to make one. When I woke up this morning I didn’t know there was a small thai-chef inside me, but that came out during lunch as a learned to make a Tom-kha soup. It inspired me to go further. And next time I will improvise a little as I cook it.
In this way an inspiring manual is breaking up a situation of distribution, of activity substitution, what theorists like Slavoy Zizek and Robert Pfaller calls “interpassivity”. It is a classical phenomenon of substitution that has evolved from historical “weepers” (women hired to cry at funerals) to today’s “canned laughter” on TV. It is also a practice connected to technology; we act as if the VCR “sees” movies for us, or the copy machine “reads” books for us, very much like how the Tibetan prayer wheel “prays” for the believer when turned.
What I want to point at here is not a question of people being “fooled” by these rituals or technologies, but instead how we lose skills and fields of action to these substitutions. The readymade sauce makes us have time for other things, but we also lose the possibility for learning to cook it. Our cooking skills converge into microwave heating.
This loss of action space is similar to what Dutch philosopher Henk Oosterling calls “radical mediocrity”. What is gained from using a word processor compared to handwriting (for example speed, spelling, aesthetics) is lost to uniformity and limited freedom (cannot express individual type or write on the diagonal).
Through interpassivity we give up our field of activity to a pre-packaged one. We give up the cookbook’s inherent possibility to help us through kitchen emancipation for the seductive speed of the ready-made sauce.
The Abstract Accessories are comments to processes like these, especially typical in the world of fashion. These accessories are all cookbooks, “instructables” or "executables", hoping to show other ways to relate to and operate with fashion. Not a new cat walk collection or a radical street-style t-shirt brand, but hopefully a collection of hands-on methods to give aid to the journeys we can make through the outskirts of fashion.
Oosterling, H. (2005) "Radical medi@crity: Xs4all" in Ba-bel, photo Illustrierte, Berlin
Zizek, S. “The Interpassive Subject” at http://www.egs.edu/faculty/zizek/zizek-the-interpassive-subject.html