Cooking Sections: The Empire Remains Shop book launch

17 November 2018



As part of their residency during Ways of Learning, artist duo Cooking Sections presented the Birmingham launch of their book, The Empire Remains Shop, speculating on legacies and exchanges between Britain and its former colonies.

This event encompassed a performative lecture by Cooking Sections accompanied by a delicious Japanese Knotweed Cocktail, this was followed by an informal question and answer session hosted by curator and researcher Nat Muller, who notably curated “Stirring the Pot of Story: Food, History, Memory” at Delfina Foundation, London, which explored the direct links between power and control over food.

We served specially selected ingredients from Feral Trade

Information about the book

“Empire shops” were first developed in London in the 1920s to teach the British to consume foodstuffs from the colonies and overseas territories. Although none of the stores ever opened, they were intended to make previously unfamiliar produce and products—sultanas from Australia, oranges from Palestine, cloves from Zanzibar, and rum from Jamaica—available in the British Isles. The Empire Remains Shop speculates on the possibility and implications of selling back the remains of the British Empire in London today.

Based on a public installation in London in the fall of 2016, the book catalogues and develops the installation’s critical program of discussions, performances, dinners, installations, and screenings hosted at 91–93 Baker Street. The pieces in this book use food to trace new geographies across the present and future of our postcolonial planet. Structured as a franchise agreement, The Empire Remains Shop lays out some of the landscapes, imaginaries, economies, and aesthetics that future iterations of the shop would need to address in order to think through political counterstructures for a better distributed, hyper-globalized world.

Artist biography

Cooking Sections (Daniel Fernández Pascual & Alon Schwabe) is a London-based duo of spatial practitioners. They explore the systems that organize the world through food. Using installation, performance, and mapping, their research-based practice operates within the overlap among visual arts, architecture, and geopolitics. They have been part of the US Pavilion, 2014 Venice Architecture Biennale; residents of The Politics of Food program at Delfina Foundation; and have shown their work at venues including the Victoria and Albert Museum, dOCUMENTA(13), the Neue Nationalgalerie in Berlin, the Het Nieuwe Instituut in Rotterdam, and the Centre for Contemporary Architecture in Montreal. They were part of the 2016 Oslo Architecture Triennale and 2016 Brussels ParckDesign, and recently completed a residency at Headlands Center for the Arts in San Francisco. They lecture internationally and lead an architecture studio at the Royal College of Art in London that investigates the financialization of the environment.

The book includes a foreword by Elizabeth A. Povinelli and contributions from Elisabetta Brighi, Filipa César, Revital Cohen & Tuur Van Balen, Jesse Connuck, Daniel Conway, Annalee Davis, Forager Collective, FRAUD, Ros Gray, Raphaël Grisey, Nitasha Kaul, Harry Keene, Laleh Khalili, Richie Maitland, Asunción Molinos, Shela Sheikh, Shahmen Suku/Radha La Bia, Bouba Touré, and Nicole Wolf.

Nat Muller is an independent curator and critic based between Amsterdam and Birmingham. She is curator of the Danish Pavilion at the Venice Biennale 2019. Her main interests include: the intersections of aesthetics, media and politics; media art, food and contemporary art in and from the Middle East. She is a regular contributor to Springerin, MetropolisM. Her writing has been published amongst others in Bidoun, ArtAsiaPacific, Art Papers, Hyperallergic, Canvas, X-tra, The Majalla, Art Margins and Harper’s Bazaar Arabia. She has also written numerous catalogue and monographic essays on artists from the Middle East. Recent projects include Spectral Imprints for the Abraaj Group Art Prize in Dubai (2012), Adel Abidin’s solo exhibition I love to love… at Forum Box in Helsinki (2013), Memory Material at Akinci Gallery, Amsterdam (2014); Customs Made: Quotidian Practices & Everyday Rituals at Maraya Art Centre in Sharjah (2014); This is the Time. This is the Record of the Time at Stedelijk Museum Bureau Amsterdam & American University of Beirut Gallery (2014/15). Nat is editorial correspondent at Ibraaz and in 2012 was a speaker on BBC World’s award-winning program The Doha Debates. In 2015 she curated a group show on contemporary Islamic miniatures Minor Heroisms for Galeri Zilberman (Istanbul) and Sadik Kwaish Alfraji’s acclaimed solo show Driven by Storms (Ali’s Boat) at Ayyam Gallery in Dubai for which she edited his first monograph, published by Schilt Publishing. In the same year she was Associate Curator for the Delfina Foundation’s Politics of Food Program (London). In 2016 she edited Nancy Atakan’s monograph Passing On published by Kehrer Verlag, and curated her solo show Sporting Chances at Pi Artworks (London). Recent exhibitions include the group show But Still Tomorrow Builds into My Face on the timely topic of loss of cultural heritage at Lawrie Shabibi Gallery (2016) and Walid Siti’s solo show The Black Tower at Zilberman gallery Berlin (2017). She was appointed guest curator for the A.M.Qattan 2016 Young Artist of the Year Award for Palestinian artists that opened at Qalandiya International in Ramallah, Palestine in 2016 and The Mosaic Rooms in London in 2017. Nat has been a nominator for amongst others the Prix Pictet Award, the V&A Jameel Art Prize, the Visible Award and the Paul Huf Photography award. She is an AHRC Midlands3Cities-funded PhD student at Birmingham City University working on science fiction in contemporary visual practices in the Middle East.