Edible Installation Art in Tokyo

Food and art make provocative bedfellows. At Tokyo’s recent Open Harvest event, food served as both medium and message to a project intended to spark discussion about sustainable agriculture in Japan.
Held inside Content, a restaurant at the Tokyo Museum of Contemporary Art, the event billed itself as a “participatory edible art installation.”
After passing through a noren curtain of dried rice stalks and grazing on a garden-like arrangement of potted salad greens, guests were free to forage among the food stalls, which had been arranged to evoke fields and ponds. Posted on the walls and projected onto large screens at the back of the venue were portraits of local farmers and fishermen, as well as images of the Open Harvest crew harvesting rice and visiting producers.
Sam White, a Chez Panisse maître d’ who co-produced Open Harvest, said he’s been thinking about holding a food-and-art event in Tokyo for more than a year, and he began discussing the possibilities with Sylvan Mishima Brackett, owner of Bay Area catering company Peko Peko.
“Given the fears about radiation, this seems like a special time in Japan when people are thinking critically about where their food comes from,” Mr. Brackett said.
That reality was on display at several points during the evening. In the middle of the room, near a stand serving wild pigeon and mushrooms, a group of chefs plucked and gutted a basket full of the birds before carrying them to the kitchen to be sautéed in wine and butter. Onlookers snapped photos as a deer was skinned, dressed and later served as delicious venison burgers.
More harrowing were the crowds, which filled every inch of the space, forcing diners to balance paper plates and glasses while trying to eat with chopsticks. The threat of being doused with hot bouillabaisse loomed around every corner, and was, unfortunately for me, eventually realized.
Tickets to the main event cost 10,000 yen per person (about $129), but the organizers said that the idea was not to turn a profit but to break even.
While they have no firm plans to make it a regular event, they’re open to the idea, Mr. White said. “We have created friendships and alliances that will undoubtedly work together.”