It’s hard to think of Charleston as having the same kind of clout as cities like Brooklyn and San Francisco. But Bouwerie collective artist and former Lowcountry native Mark Andrew Gravel would disagree.
“Charleston and the South overall seem to function more as an incubator because artists will start out here and then gravitate to other cities to continue developing their work,” he says. Which is why he’s bringing his temporary restaurant to Eye Level Art, along with one of the chillwavest of chillwave bands, Washed Out.
Gravel named the Charleston night “Peaches” for the state fruit of both South Carolina and Georgia, where Washed Out is from (the musician actually lived on a peach orchard). “My projects explore the social role of the artist and the power of art and food to transform society,” he says. “The combination of art and food takes place in the form of a temporary restaurant, which blends various elements of performance art, happenings, social sculpture, and relational aesthetics through cooking and a convivial experience.”
Gravel’s dishes are always bean-based; he’s done black bean tacos and black-eyed pea ramen previously. For Peaches, he’ll be serving a red-bean gumbo. “It’s pretty simple and straightforward — small red beans, onion, celery, and herbs — served over rice. It’s vegetarian, but you’d never know it.” Gravel says that people usually don’t know what to expect at his events, which creates room for improvisation, and participating in the experience itself is art. It’s his proposal for “convivial modes of eating and living rooted in real actions rather than utopian proposals.”
He explains, “What’s important is not what you see but the interactions taking place. The central intention is to create a social environment for people to come together to participate in a shared meal and music experience — and when there’s good food, good music, and good people, things play out pretty well.” —Susan Cohen