The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com
Thursday, November 29, 2012 - 3B
Chips and dips sure to
tickle the palate
Assocreation's public, interactive installations have been diverse, including toy cars and broom heads.
From Page iB
"I used to get sort of annoyed
with these questions," he said.
"We'd be up, tying together sev-
eral hundred broom heads in the
freezing dark, trying to make
sure we stayed anonymous.
And people would keep poking
around, asking us where the
money came from."
With a laugh, Graf said
he developed a thicker skin.
"Whenever we're setting up a
project, we just turn the ques-
tions onto the viewer, and ask
them - well, what do you think
this is? What do you think it
"At the end of the day, it's not
our understanding or reaction
that really matters," Graf added.
"It's what the people do with it."
Videos of Assocreation's proj-
ects in action highlight this sort
of disbelief - even shock - felt
by viewers. In footage from
2007's "Red Carpet," passersby
react to a 12-foot pseudo-carpet
made out of hundreds of upright
broom heads. Outside the Royal
Palace of Brussels, pedestrians
jump, laugh and scurry across
the bristled rug.
And sometimes passersby
have no idea what they're sup-
posed to do. Maybe it's because
these projects are out of the
museum's womb, or maybe it's
just the sort of unapologetic,
unexplained presence of these
pieces. Something about them
bewilders viewers, turns them
into little kids - poking the rug,
asking whether they can walk
over it. Some do a double-take,
and awkwardly tip-toe over the
carpet before someone "catches"
How people react to the
installation doesn't really mat-
ter to Graf and the rest of Asso-
creation. Just as long as they do.
"We don't go into projects
expecting X reaction, or Y
response," Graf said. "All we're
trying to get people to do is
He cleared his throat. "Every
day, we watch people walk down
the street, barely touching any-
thing, like they don't even know
where they are. We just want to
show people that location does
matter. Public interaction does
"And it all starts on the
ground," he added.
The heart and soul of Assocre-
ation's work? Concrete.
Or boardwalks. Floors cov-
ered in human hair. Any ground,
really. Where most art asks you to
stand back, turn off the flash and
please, no touching, Assocreation
demands you to walk all over
them. Jump if you have to. Even
"Public Hanging," a piece that
puts participants in business suits
and hoists them offthe ground via
meat hooks - forces people back
down to earth.
"At first, -their reaction is really
funny," Graf said. "People swim
through the air, enjoying this sort
of freedom they have. But then the
suit becomes a straitjacket."
Participants often lose feeling
in their arms and legs.
"And once again, they become
slaves to gravity."
This fascination with the
floor, Graf explained, comes
from observing street life from
across the world. The members of
Assocreation may have different
backgrounds and personalities -
vastly different, if you ask Graf
- but what unites them is this
passion for the ground as a work-
"We can be inspired by any-
thing on the street," Graf said.
"A wobbly pavement or sunlight
reflected on the street."
He paused: "Even now, as I'm
thousands of miles away from the
rest of Assocreation, we're still
connected by this obsession with
street life, and how people behave
with the ground."
It only takes a quick glance
through Assocreation's portfolio
to see this attachment to terra
firma. There's "Pink Prints,"
where the crowd covers their
shoes with in-your-face pink
paint, and walks over shirts scat-
tered across the ground. Then
there's "Airlines," where an Asso-
creation member drags a bag of
chalk through the streets, weav-
ing lines around pedestrians and
buildings. Even "Fieldwork," one
of Assocreation's museum piec-
es, encourages viewers to walk
all over pounds and pounds of
hair, turning split ends into a
tightly woven wig carpet.
"We want people to think
about what they're stepping on
with each footstep," Graf said.
"Each step is an interaction
with the ground and the world
For Graf, the feet and hands-
on nature of Assocreation's work
highlights the upside to public
"Sure, you're opening yourself
up to vandalism," he said. "But
the flip-side to that is the possi-
bility to create something beau-
tiful; creating interactions more
beautiful and complex than you
For 15 years, Graf and his col-
leagues observed street-level
interactions all across Europe
and transformed them into liter-
al works of art. Every plaza was
a breeding ground for new ideas.
Every public square told a story.
But then Graf took the job
at the University, and moved
his family to Michigan. And
just like that, the pedestrian-
driven streets of Europe were
left behind - traded in for strip
malls and red lights. The street
culture that drove Graf to art
was replaced with a new kind
of street culture - SUVs, mini-
vans and the occasional bumper
Which brought him to the
question: What the hell am Isup-
posed to do now?
The wild (mid)west
Graf chewed on the end of
his pen. "I've traveled a lot in
my life, and I've lived in differ-
ent countries - Austria, France,
He paused: "But I've never
been to a place as wild and raw
It has been a little over a year
since Graf uprooted his life and
hopped to the other side of the
Atlantic. Though he enjoys his
work at the University, Graf is
the first to admit - it's not easy
being an artist in the Midwest.
Especially one that lives for
"I had plans when I came
here," Graf said. "But from the
beginning, there were just so
many things that didn't make
sense to me."
For instance, cars.
"The connection to the street
here is completely different. Of
course, Ann Arbor is a nice small
town, and it's more walkable
"But it's still car-driven," Graf
continued. "Several times I was
nearly killed by cars while push-
ing my daughter in her stroller."
This wasn't the case back in
Austria. "In Europe, we could
open our studio doors and bring
people in off the street," Graf
Even Europe's mass transit was
an artistic goldmine, Graf added,
with thousands of people rushing
on and off metros every minute.
"I still get shocked driving
around Michigan," Graf said.
"I've never lived in a place where
you can adopt a street."
But with time, these automo-
tive affections became a vehicle
of inspiration for Graf.
"The intimate relationship
Americans have with their cars
inspired me. It pushed me to
incorporate completely new ele-
ments in my art, like the solar
toy cars," he explained.
Still, after a year in Michigan,
Graf doesn't really know if the
Midwest is best for artists.
Graf looked at the ceiling and
laughs. "Well, maybe if you can
afford to leave enough."
"Now, don't get me wrong,"
he continued. "This is a great
university, with smart, inspir-
ing people. But you're trading
this with an environment that
doesn't reflect the world outside
"You have to make an effort
to stay in touch with the real
world," Graf said. "You have to
try to connect with street life, no
matter what that looks like."
"And above all else, you've got
to keep your feet on the ground."
J sswas a month ago already
when we first started
talking chips and dips. In
one short article, we covered
my favorite flavored chips, my
and dip andg
even a do- n
version of the
But we still NATHAN
have a lot left WOOD
on the snack
table to dig
So kick your feet up, knock back
the pitch of that office chair and
join me as we pop open a bag or
two of my favorite supermarket
If potato chips had eras like
classical music does, I would
say we're currently in the
kettle-cooked era. Sales of these
extra-crunchy dippers have
skyrocketed in the past few
years, and I don't see the trend
changing any time soon. What
exactly demarcates a kettle-
cooked chip, and why do people
like them so much? In a nut-
shell, it's how they're cooked.
While classic potato chips
brown up by floating through a
specific length of carefully reg-
ulated oil flowing in one direc-
tion, kettle-cooked potato chips
are fried in batches: A vat of oil
is heated and the potatoes are
dumped in, fried in-place and
removed batch-by-batch. This
immediate addition of potato
causes a quick drop in oil tem-
perature, which then gradually
rises as the potatoes cook.
The whole ordeal gives the
potato starches time to develop
a beefier texture and deeply
caramelized flavor, which
many people find superior to
the light, delicate texture and
flavor of the more modern pro-
cessed chip. I'm not one of those
Favorite Kettle-Cooked Chip:
Cape Cod Kettle Cooked Sea
Salt & Vinegar.
of oil, t
in a pot
now how with a typi- sic chips deliver: not too greasy,
of potato chips, you feel big and crunchy, light and airy. I
y when you find one of envision the thinly sliced pota-
Aded-over, curly-cue toes containing fragile pockets
hips? Well in this bag, of starch, which become warm
:ega crunchers - which and slippery-smooth across my
n't too thick or at all tongue as I chew them. The
ked - are the norm. sunflower oil is also a delicate
a splash of vinegar, and light, tasty choice. And as
:dds a complex punch a final seal of simplicity, these
r acidity. But the bag of chips are preservative-free, the
ill isn't overly sour, like only ingredients being potatoes,
-brand's disgustingly oil and salt. Bam.
elming version. They're As far as the dip, do not, under
flavor, robust in texture. any circumstances, stir upon
as a nutritious plus, opening like it says to. You want
otatoes are fried in to dig into that thick, glossy
ealthy canola oil, so they goodness undisturbed. Slightly
contain very little satu- thinner than cream cheese and
t. (Side story: Canola oil - unsurprisingly - not quite as
ically rapeseed oil! The rich, this dip is sour, tangy and
anola," which comes wonderfully - but not overly -
e label "Canadian oil, salty. Little minced, garlic-size
d," was fabricated when bits of onion swim throughout,
ing firms realized "rape- providing all the flavor neces-
ounded too harsh to sell.) sary, save a couple of herbs. The
concoction practically dissolves
in your mouth.
The characteristic of this dip
separating it from all the others
1gredients is thickness. It really can't be
gr e t beat. Caution: The low-fatver-
to make sion of the dip looks deceptively
similar to the regular, but you
erfeCtion. must never buy low-fat - go big
or go home.
And when we start dipping
the Lay's chips into the cool
her good-quality kettle- and creamy Dean's dip, mad
chip that you've prob- flavor chaos ensues. You get
sed right over before crunchy chip corners colliding
r's brand. With a great with each other and the insides
and the perfect amount of your teeth as silky smooth,
hese chips' salt deficit is tangy French onion dip slides in
vnfall. There's definitely between the cracks. Your taste
ugh salt. Add it yourself, receptors overload as they simul-
p some dip to compen- taneously register each of the five
skip it all together and tastes, and you spontaneously
ur arteries a break. throw your head back and moan
with that, we're going in sheer pleasure. It's basically an
off the kettle-cooked orgasm for your mouth.
gon and make our last And so it's on that note that I
my absolute favorite wrap up my picks for some tasty
nd dip. , chips and dip. But there are stilla
lot of other chip-induced mouth
te Chips and Dip orgasms out there for me to
: Lay's Classic Pota- experience. So help me out: What
ps and, Dean's French are your favorite chips and dips?
'acy is a wonderful thing
ato chip, and these clas-
Wood is snacking on his
favorite chips. To join, e-mail
Roland Graf came from Austria to Michigan to work for the University.