Illusion of Abudance

Kotelnicheskaya Embankment Building

Images: Ernest Yakovlev

Work was presented at New Year Eve 2021. It represented an illusion of abundance of food and freedom. You think that you can get anything, but in fact you consume only the things demanded by the majority.

The event took place in the Stalinist high-rise building, Kotelnicheskaya Naberezhnaya, 1/15, a symbol of neoclassical architecture. From the fifties of the 20th century and until the collapse of the Soviet Union, it was home to representatives of the political nomenklatura, the security services and people of art and culture. The building is known thanks to the special interior solutions, the presence of hidden niches and false walls, allowing it to spy on its inhabitants and listen to the conversations and actions of undesirable regime personalities, dissidents, the opposition of social realism - the dominant trend in the art of those years.

The Illusion Cinema, which was created in the lobby of the building and is still open today, acquired a cult status as a symbol of openness, a "sip of freedom", a place where foreign films were shown that were unavailable in other cinemas. Famous actors and directors from around the world came here for premieres and screenings, from Akira Kurosawa to Gerard Depardieu and Sidney Pollack. While being at the forefront of the world's cinematic agenda, the cinema itself, its employees, and its audience, were constrained by the realities of the Soviet Union, the Iron Curtain, and later, the censorship of Putin's Russia. The Illusion Cinema became an illusion of abundance of freedom and accessibility of cultural life in a particular home, city, and country.

The spacious hall with a view of the Kremlin and Red Square through wide windows is where the performance takes place. A giant table is laid out with dishes created from available products of Moscow markets. Young greens, such as tarragon, romano, kohlrabi, and radish, "move" around the dishes, twisting, colliding and forming streams
The greens are a symbol of new life, embodying the dynamic and changeable nature of reality. This concept of fluidity is emphasized by the main dish, a giant sturgeon, whose spine relief resembles a prehistoric animal. Next to it are numerous small fishes, sardines, and the specialty of oriental cuisine, freekeh, made from green wheat, which is laid in sheaves on an open fire. All the excess husk burns, leaving the grains with only a smoked aroma. The dish is accentuated with milky almonds and olive oil. Lychee pulp is mixed with red basil leaves. The cook cuts off a piece of fish, puts a spoon of freekeh on a plate, scoops molokhia and lychee with tongs, and guests can take their favorite greens with their hands.

The dessert table includes eclairs with vanilla cream and silver leaf and Escaban cake. The cake is an almond flour sponge cake with sabered rose petals, raspberry cream, and raspberry ganache.

"Illusion of Abundance" is an immersive experience that captures the absurdity of our present moment. The performance raises questions about the food industry and whether traditional values such as hospitality, generosity, and abundance still have a place in it.

Main table

Cold smoked sturgeon
Freekeh (green smoked wheat) with blanched almonds
Molokhia mixed with pomegranates seeds
Lychee with red basil
Romanesco, romano, radish, spicy greens, Uzbek lemons, Azerbaijani tomatoes

Dessert table

Eclairs with vanilla cream and silver leaf

Escaban cake: almond flour sponge cake, sabered rose petals, raspberry cream, raspberry ganache