Van der Wier graduated from the St. Joost School of Art and Design last year and then had a flying start. He won the Van Gogh AIR Award and spent a month as artist-in-residence at the Vincent van GoghHuis in Zundert, he participated in the exhibition Currents in Marres with work by graduate artists from Belgium and the Netherlands.ë, North Rhine-Westphalia and Southern Netherlands and was a guest on the podcast Art is Long.
He filled the large display cases at the station with paintings, photographs, objects and weck pots filled with local vegetables, fruits and flowers. Before going to art school, he worked as a cook, and this is reflected in his work. He is fascinated by food and createsëert plants based on different fermentation processes. Bacteriën, fungi and yeasts are part of his artistic process.
Between the display cases is a simple folding table and, beneath it, crates of glasses, cutting boards and other kitchen utensils. Twelve people gather to witness the meeting - actually performance. Van de Wier welcomes us and tells us that we are participating in a tasting. He will prepare food for us on the spot, using the now-fermented contents of the weck jars. We start with a glass of homemade kombucha, a fermented tea.
Using long kitchen tweezers, Van de Wier carefully hands everyone an oyster leaf, then a teaspoon of lemon balm goes on top and finally fermented arugula flowers. The morsel is on our hand and we have to take it in ONEn eat at once. It tastes excellent, we all agree. Most of those present are somewhat tense.
Before going to art school, he worked as a cook, and this is reflected in his work
If you are not too familiar with fermented cuisine, it still remains to be seen if you can appreciate the taste. When Van de Wier opens a weckpot of cauliflower, the smell of sulfur yawns at us. He can explain the smell; there is a tremendous pressure on the weckpot and when you open it, oxygen is added, and this creates the sulfur smell. Fortunately, the cauliflower tastes different than it smells.
Meanwhile, we have a spoon in one hand and a glass in the other, and we stand in a semi-circle around the table. This is no accident; Van de Wier has unwittingly made us soëstaged. As a chef in the catering industry, you are subservient to your guests, he tells me later over the phone, but in this role, he wants to create equality preciselyëbetween himself and the audience. He does this by creatingërun of service to the food and to the ritual of eating. Therefore, he takes the time to give us the food, leaf by leaf, with kitchen tweezers. We wait patiently until everyone is provided, and only then do we taste. We all eat at once and then look at each other questioningly. How does it taste? Almost every time it tastes fine, we feel like we're on an adventure.
Van de Wier walks into the display case a few more times, snatching away weck jars here and there, only to prepare more at the table: the seed pod of a radish, lightly fermented and then sterilized asparagus, cabbage with beans and finally red onion crème. After so many courses, we are starting to get somewhat of a sour stomach, and although they are small bites, they are quite filling.
Everything we ate that night came from Breda or the surrounding area. Van de Wier visits local farmers and gets vegetables there. We tasted Breda that night, he says, in the sense that if he had taken the same vegetables from Groningen or Amsterdam soil and fermented them, they would taste different. Vegetables contain microbes, bacteriën and fungi and they are unique to a particular place because they adapt to the soil, air, temperature, et cetera. His tastings are both a visual and taste record of a particular place.
We tasted Breda that night, he says
Patience and time are important prerequisites for his work; fermentation takes time, as do preparations for installations and tastings. It starts with a visit to a local farmer and only ends when our digestive system has processed the fermented food. This is why Van de Wier found the train station such an appropriate place for his work; among all those running people to catch the train, the art quietly waits to be viewed én consumed.
photography accompanying this article: Stan Heerkens