Written by Sofia Grigoriadou
Béchamel (2017-19), a photo-essay in 16 placemats, draws links between béchamel sauce, neoclassicism, eclecticism, nationalism, and patriarchy. Reflecting on the cities of Athens and Skopje through Nikolaos Tselementes’ cookbooks, it deals with memory management, as well as forms of silencing and concealing in regards to food, gender roles and the city. In the early 20th century Greece, the establishment of béchamel sauce and the removal of spices disciplined and civilized the “unsightly”, “oriental” dishes. Savoire vivre taught women how to keep silent and obedient. In the 19th century, arguments for a Greek nation-state were based, among other things, on the alleged direct affinity of modern Greece with classical antiquity. Ruins were “cleansed” of posterior elements and neoclassical buildings appeared. A few years ago, historical eclecticism coated the socialist brutalist buildings in Skopje, creating links to the western European past. Recently, another (male) Warrior on a Horse was erected in Athens. Along with the narrative on the placemats, the work is also experienced through the degustation of foods, popular in both Skopje and Athens, such as baked beans and burek. Only, this time they are served covered in béchamel, with the use of tools common in construction works.