Aryen Hoekstra

Good Cook

Opening reception: Thursday, February 8, 2018, 6-8pm

February 9 – March 3, 2018


4. The Good Cook

This onion will become a motion 
this grapefruit 
will become a thought.(1)

Titled after a series of instructional cookbooks produced by Time-Life in the early 1980s, Good Cook proposes the reorganization of existing knowledge categories by looking to the culinary as an operational model founded upon mixing and blending. Considering the kitchen as a plastic site where experimentation and synthesis take precedence over axiomatization and analysis, the exhibition positions chemistry’s “messy experimentation” as a model for this reformulation, where formerly localized categories might be blended and mixed to produce new compound expressions. The exhibition considers the generic cookbook as an especially reactive type of reference, further extended in its responsiveness through the exhibition’s quotation of Aby Warburg’s iconographic methodology as it appears in his Atlas Mnemosyne project.

Each of the 28 volumes in Time-Life Books’ The Good Cook is dedicated to a specific culinary category (Eggs & Cheese, Pasta, Sauces, Vegetables, etc …), attempting to instruct home cooks in the techniques of ‘renowned chefs and gourmands’ as selected by its editor Richard Olney(2). Like other best-selling Time-Life series of the period (Enchanted WorldMysteries of the Unknown, The Seafarers) The Good Cook positioned itself as a singular encyclopedic reference, constructing a false horizon within the culinary through the editors’ regional preferences, and recommitting the copyist’s error of conjoining enkyklios (general) with paideia (education) to produce an incomplete enkyklopaidia (complete knowledge). Like Warburg’s library The Good Cook compendium is restricted by these limitations, betraying the synthetic potentials.

(1)Atwood, M. (1976): Selected poems: 1965-1975. Boston (Mass.): Houghton Mifflin.
(2)Many of the recipes featured in The Good Cook first appeared in the culinary journal Petits Propos Culinaires, which was conceived of in 1979 alongside Elizabeth David and Alan and Jane Davidson while Olney was preparing for his Time-Life project.

Rather than claiming to re-present an incomplete “life in motion” a la Warburg, the panels that comprise Good Cook only untether these existing images from their binding, proposing the potential of a synthetic thought where experimentation and operations of mixing and blending take precedence over analysis, subtraction and axiomatization. A new text, of which the above is an excerpt, initiates this as a though-experiment, linking the reference points of Aby Warburg's library and a donation to that library by British cookery writer Elizabeth David through the context of Borges' Library of Babel. Alongside the text and the six panels hang six new sculptural works that set chemistry's messy experimentation squarely in the kitchen.  

Aryen Hoekstra (b. 1982) is an artist and writer based in Toronto, ON. He completed his MFA at the University of Guelph’s School of Fine Arts and Music and his BFA at the University of Alberta. Originating in the formal and conceptual language of the moving-image, Hoekstra's studio practice examines knowledge systems formed through projection during the 20th century. Working across media he considers the formation of historical narratives, speculating on what alternate futures might be manifest if these had formed otherwise.  

Recent solo exhibitions include The Flicker at YYZ Artist's Outlet, Celestial bodies at 8eleven and Choreography for Screen at Mercer Union (all Toronto, ON). Other recent exhibition venues include, Scotiabank Nuit Blanche (Toronto, ON); the Art Gallery of Alberta (Edmonton, AB); Gallery 44 (Toronto, ON); Forest City Gallery (London, ON); Modern Fuel (Kingston, ON); Blackwood Gallery (Mississauga, ON). He has contributed writing for YYZ Artists’ Outlet, Susan Hobbs, COOPER COLE, and Daniel Faria Gallery, and his art criticism has appeared in Canadian Art, C Magazine, Border Crossings, and Magenta Magazine. From 2014 – 2016 Hoekstra served as the Director of G Gallery. He is currently a contributing editor at and is the founder and Director of the project space Franz Kaka in Toronto, ON. 

Aryen Hoekstra would like to acknowledge the support of the Canada Council for the Arts, the Ontario Arts Council, and the Toronto Arts Council.