A political food truck

March 21, 2012
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Chicago-based artist Michael Rakowitz is opening a
food-truck this week, a date set to coincide with the ninth anniversary of the
beginning of the Iraq War.

Through his project Enemy Kitchen, Rakowitz has been using
Iraqi food and culture to break down cultural barriers for several years. He is
launching the food truck as part of the Smart Museum of Art's new exhibit
called "Feast: Radical Hospitality in Contemporary Art."

The food truck flies the Iraqi flag, prepares Iraqi food and
is staffed by U.S. Iraq war veterans and local Iraqi cooks. One veteran, Aaron
Hughes, also prepares cardamom-spiced tea--and serves it in Styrofoam cups, as
a gesture to the lives of prisoners at Guantanamo Bay. He explained
this detail to Time-Out Chicago
:

In Guantanamo Bay, the only
object detainees are allowed to have in their cell are Styrofoam cups for tea,
so they draw all over them. They never write anything, they always just draw
flowers.

Hughes's cups, too, will come with drawings.

Enemy Kitchen stands out from typical protest with its
gesture of hospitality. Political street theater frequently aims to shock
passersby into recognition. But Enemy Kitchen reaches out instead with a gift,
an invitation to share something sacred: food and tea. Somehow this gesture is
more profound than 1,000 bodies marked with fake blood.

I find myself wishing I had the creative resources to dream
up dozens of similar project--projects that could dramatically incarnate the
connection between politics and hospitality, that could challenge and transform
our perceptions of our so-called enemies.