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Hell Fire and Brimstone
By Mar 16, 2010 Dining


If the resounding failure of Pavilion Costes in Shanghai teaches us one thing, it's the danger of flying to close to the Bund on wings of assumed privilege and foie gras.

But could it be that Pavilion Costes, France's most immodest export, were too staid in their approach? Were they too moderate? Too proletarian in design? Too open to the common man? Too forgiving of the meek and virtuous? Did they just not take the decadence and disdain far enough?

Landing in our inbox by way of errant but thunderous press release comes news of the imminent arrival of The Hell Fire Dining Club, a five-night bacchanal of haute cuisine, performance and installation art, alchemy and beastiary, raised from the depths of hell by Austrian food and installation artist, Paul Renner, to be unleashed on the gallery space at Three on the Bund this May.

Under the aegis of Alexandra Grimmer, a Shanghai-based Austrian gallerist, and the Suntchi group, Renner will be flying into Shanghai on dripping, leathery wings to transform the gallery space at Three into a mutating, undulating platform of debased grotesquery and gastronomic purification. Five nights of culinary carnival are promised -- an "epic voyage of excess" -- basically, it sounds like Satan's cafeteria. On laudanum. At this point I shall begin quoting, with true libertarian abandon, from this rather epic-in-its-own-regard press release. It sounds insane.

But first, here's the slogan of the traveling Hell Fire Dining Club, incidentally a riff on William Blake. Well done: "The road of excess leads to the palace of wisdom... If it doesn't, so much the better."



"On several nights the Three On The Bund exhibition space is turned into a laboratory where the Metamorphosis of the Fenghuang will take place. On the first night, the Fat & Gold night, fat will be turned into gold and backwards. The space will look like a "Wunderkammer". The air will be soaked by finest Martell cognacs around a food sculpture.

On the next night, The Alchemist's Wedding night, putrefaction and purification, dissolution and unification will be the theme. Paul Renner will open his new constructed Shanghai bar and serve glamorous cocktails while the tables will be agglomerated by monochrome food. A Chinese composer will perform.

Soul Journey is the title of the third night. Chinese pharmacy and Shamanism will be life and soul of this night. The chef team of David Laris will cook with psychoactive plants while Paul Renner conducts a Shaman singer and Jazz musicians. [That last emphasis is ours.]

And the final will be The Quintessence of the Ethereal night. Transubstantiation, the Holy Grail, wine, eternal happiness, the rising of the phoenix and the principles of the Fenghuang, accompanied by a speech of Lajos Adamik, Hungarian writer and chef. Paul Renner will release an art film, based on all the experiments that were necessary for the realization of the Metamorphosis of the Fenghuang."

It all sounds a bit rough at this point but you can see the gist and scope of it. Basically, a river of cash will be diverted into this madman's hands for the most ignoble of all purposes: mass spectacle and the triumphant celebration of self-gratification. 'Temples of the Extreme', yes, it's fabulous!.

Here's a bit more background on Paul Renner and the infamous, world-traveling Hell Fire Dining Club: Back in 2006, he did a similar event called "Hardcore Dinner" at Koenig’s gallery in New York -- "invitations were sent to a select group of the fabulous and the homeless". Here's a description of what went on from New York Magazine:

"Monday’s Fertile Fat Breasts: Abundance and Excess, which features calf’s tongue with wasabi caviar served on a bed of blossoms ("an ode to cunnilingus," says Renner) and a centrepiece -- doubling as the dessert course -- consisting of twelve chocolate cakes, 24 glazed doughnuts, chocolate Twizzlers, Boston cream pie, and various bonbons dumped in a heap in the middle of the banquet table. The evening will also include a striptease by ecdysiast Ruby Valentine.

Tuesday brings In Cold Blood: Henkersmahlzeit, a marrow-and-gore-themed feast: Dessert will be a chocolate birthday cake with seven candles -- Texas murderer Miguel Richardson's last meal before he was put down by lethal injection on June 26, 2001.

And on the final night, Decayed Gotham Honey Party: Perfume & Disinfectant, in the ultimate act of decadence, all the china, cutlery, and stemware will be unceremoniously thrown in a Dumpster.”

Details are still being sketched out for Shanghai's Hell Fire Dining Club, although the press release and website implies that all this is going down in May 2010. We give you just the tip of the iceberg. Follow the links back -- back all the way to Sir Francis Dashwood's Hellfire Club in the 18th Century -- and let supposition take over on how deep and absurd this thing runs.

You can pray to God that it all gets sorted out and approved by the controlling forces that have reign over this kind of thing, but perhaps it's better to send your prayers in the other direction.

Until then: Do What Thou Wilt.

Top image is from the "Hardcore Diner" event invitation.

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