In this sense, the exhibition format enables us to recreate scenarios that are more vivid than reality itself. If the present remains impervious to the eye, and in the absence of a cohesive historical perspective, then fiction and reality become entangled across time and space; feeding into otherness. We can therefore imagine being here and elsewhere, now or before… We can also imagine the existence of a fictional character, the protagonist of our story. His name is Mr. Bow, and this is his story.
The tale of Mr. Bow
If Mr. Bow appeared in Italo Calvino’s “Cosmicomics,” not only would he be a fictional character, but, like the other bizarre, wandering dreamers of the story – beyond human. Mr. Bow, then, is the hero of a grotesque, paradoxical future, like a post-modern replica of the world we live in, recalled from a future where everything has already happened and cursed with an asymptotic “nostalgia for the present”. In such a scenario, Mr. Bow is a barker of dreams. Not because of his persuasiveness or insight, but simply because he is moved by a visionary fervor. Within the dystopian and disorienting future in which he lives – a chaotic and non-static world – Mr. Bow’s dream is finally realised. “The world is flat!,” He states one day… That is, flattened, static, with no shadings, no smells, no tastes. Especially with regard to food, water and air…
Food is low-quality and tasteless, gobbled up and globalised, as economists say, by identical big chains serving sterile fast food (by then Next, a slow-food chain and the future of McDonald’s, will have monopolized the planet).
This is where Mr. Bow’s dream begins.
In a constant oscillation between truth and fiction, Mr. Bow’s tale draws upon two spheres simultaneously, using a double language, the insider world of food bloggers and the visionary character of an overambitious entrepreneur who through his business sets out to achieve a retroactive dream.
A return to tradition, to individual identities, to flavors, through the opening of small restaurants, featuring old-time national and local cuisines. Mr. Bow thus begins his adventure and opens his chain of “Food of the World” restaurants.
Yet he can’t shake from his mind an old essay by philosopher Jean Baudrillard, read who knows when and where, on the Chuang Tzu chef: “there is no need to see the whole ox, but to work on interstices.”
Therefore, Mr. Bow decides to start from absence to arrive at essence. Emptiness is a good canvas to start from. Everything is made from scratch, built as if it were true. But truer than what we could have ever imagined, “because [it] has already happened.” Hence, for the opening of Mr. Bow’s first Eastern food restaurant, the characteristics of the place mingle with anomalies. He joins a dynamic team: Amy Yao, Sean Raspet, Emanuel Rohss, Sean Townley, and Zoe Williams. It does not matter that the philological reconstruction of the name does not work perfectly. The symbolic exchange does take place. We are in the midst of what James Berger has called a perspective retrospective. We are in a fiction, which seems more real than reality. It does not matter that the food is not what it used to be. We only know that in switching between fiction and reality we are always living in the two dimensions at once.