Andreja Brulc's Blog

‘Lost and Found’: Typographic Easter

Posted in Lost and Found by andrejabrulc on 06/04/2013

In my post of last year on how to dye Easter Eggs in onion skin with leaf pattern as part of the ‘Lost and Found’ series, I explained the reason why the ‘lost and found’ notion was applied in the method of dying eggs traditionally used in Slovenia. This year I decided to push my culinary skills even further – I pulled my sleeves and set on the adventure of making another essential item traditionally prepared for the Easter feast (and Christmas) in Slovenia – the baking of potica. I have never done this kind of roll before, so for me it was ineed the beginning of the new adventure! Potica is a culinary symbol of Slovenia from where it spread around the world, so I thought that this festive roll ought to serve as the base for my typographic touch!Happy Easter_2

The context

Potica, also known as povitica, is a yeast-raised sweet dough rolled with a variety of fillings (apparently around 50 different kinds of fillings are used), but the most famous filling traditionally used is without doubt a walnut paste.

Potica is first mentioned in historical documents in 1575. It is also famously described as a festive dish in The Glory of the Duchy of Carnolia, a historical and typographical account of the Slovenian lands under the Habsburgs in the 17th century by a Carnolian nobleman, scientist, polymath and a fellow of the Royal Society (London) named Johann Weikhard von Valvasor.  Some researchers claim that its origins go back even further in history. For instance, the ethnographer Damjan J. Ovsec suggests that potica was already prepared in medieval monasteries by nuns. The linguists also point out that the word potica comes from the Latin word ‘potissmus’ suggesting a cake that is very tasty and delicious. Such a cake would at the time normally be prepared in the monasteries for church dignitaries, from where it would spread through the social strata via feudal lords (castle) to townspeople (towns) and peasants (villages).

Method

Every family has its favourite recipe and can vary from one household to the next. My method of making it comes from my childhood memory of how both my grandma and my mum took a great care in the preparation of the ingredients needed for the baking and how they tackled the whole process.

The rule number one: the selection of walnuts in particular is considered very important – their age and whether they are dried properly and so on! My whole family would gather around the kitchen table a few nights before in order to engage ourselves in crashing the walnuts out of their shell – of course, one went into my tummy, the other on the floor and the third one onto the pile for the roll! All recipes suggest that you ought to grind the walnuts very finely but I broke the rule – my electric blender is a bit outdated so it ground them between fairly fine to medium. The paste came out a bit more coarse than usual but in my opinion it was an improvement!

The rule number two: beat the dough until smooth and filled with bubbles. I remember my grandma and my mum how they leaned over their large metal pot laboriously beating their yeast dough for ages. This process is apparently essential but I decided to break the rule yet again and kneaded it instead (circa 10 mins).

The rule number three: before your start, leave out all the ingredients to the room temperature (1 hour). I recall how my mum yelled at us if one of us left the door open while the dough was being raised! It is important that your kitchen is warm during the making, so absolutely no draughts are allowed!

The rule number four: all Slovene recipes suggest you use fresh yeast – to which you add warm milk and sugar – in order to raise it first before it is added to the rest. But no need for the fresh yeast (which is hard to find in London!) as dry one does the job just the same – you sieve it into the flour and then add all the ingredients!Slovenska kuharica

However, the list of ingredients and their proportions were taken from my dilapidated copy of the Slovene cookery book (1970) written by a nun called Felicita Kalinsek, who is famous in Slovenia for her writing and teaching on cooking. You may laugh – but I was taught by her how to cook when I was 14! I have been embarrassed by this for a long time (being sent to a nunnery by parents to do knitting, crocheting and cooking) but now I am more than delighted to write this down! After all, all the best cooking, historically speaking, was perfected in monasteries!

Dough

Ingredients

1 liter bread flour (approx 630 g)
1 pack dry yeast (weight for 630 g flour)
1/4 liter warm milk (you can add a bit more later depending on the dryness of your flour)
100 g butter
1 lemon grind
1 drop vanilla extract
4 egg yolks (the recipe suggests 2 to 5 but I would say the fewer the softer the dough but less yellow and tasty!)
1/2 teaspoon salt and sugar

Instructions

1. Sieve the flour into a large bowl. Make a hole in the flour, into which you sieve the dry yeast.
2. In a separate bowl, mix warm milk, butter, sugar and yolks.
3. Add the mixture to the flour and add the salt.
4. Mix all together until the dough is fairly dry. Then knead the dough for 10 mins.
5. Leave the dough in a larger bowl to raise (approx 1-2 hours depending on the warmth in your kitchen, or radiator if you have not got much time!). Meanwhile, prepare the filling.

Filling

Ingredients

70 g butter
3 egg yolks (2 egg whites)
250 g sugar
1 lemon grind
1/2 teaspoon cinnamon
4 large spoon single cream
1 liter walnuts (when ground, separate walnuts evenly into two bowls – 50:50)
1/2 teaspoon salt and sugar

Instructions

1. Mix butter with egg yolks and sugar until creamy.
2. Add spices, cream, half a litter of walnuts and whisked egg whites.

Preparing the roll

1. Use the dough roller to flatten your dough so that it is about 1cm thick.
2. Evenly distribute the wet filling onto the flat dough. Sprinkle the second (dry) part of the walnuts on top.
3. Optionally you can add raisins (not sultanas). Generally I am not so keen on ‘squashed flies’, but as my potica was made for my British family who like raisins, I used the largest ones (approx 1-2 cm tall) I could find in our corner shop – and I am now converted! Sultanas = ‘squashed flies’ versus large raisings = ‘the real thing’!
4. Roll the dough as tightly as you can into one long roll. The roll was then cut into 3 even parts (approx 20cm long) to fit my bread tins. Each piece was topped with cream and smoothed with a brush.
5. Raise potica while in tins for another hour. Then bake it for approx 1 hour at 170 degrees (fan oven). Note: if it is browning too fast on top, place some aluminium foil to prevent the crust from burning!

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Project: The Meal

Posted in Exhibitions, Projects by andrejabrulc on 29/02/2012

I responded to the Art House Co-op’s first annual global snack project, called The Meal, which the team in New York, based at Brooklyn Art Library, described in a few simple but beautiful words as “One moment. One meal. Let’s eat”. The team had asked thousands of people around the world to participate in a simultaneous meal with strangers, which took place on 24th Feb 2012 at 12pm EST. The team also said that the aim of the project was to encourage the artists to “take a moment from our hectic lives” in order “to inspire a feeling of community across geographic and cultural boundaries”, while addressing the statement “you are what you eat”. The slogan “what you eat” is never enough for nearly a billion people around the world and the project is, therefore, a call for our awareness of the growing problem in the struggle against global hunger.

My piece is called London Meal as I have lived in London (UK) for over 20 years. As London is ahead of New York for 5 hours, it meant that my meal had to be prepared for a traditional British afternoon tea at 5pm (GMT), to be eaten with a cup of British style tea rather than with a can of Coca-Cola as in New York. To emphasise the concept of the multi-cultural and global event, I, therefore, decided to test my technical – culinary – skills that I learnt in my mother’s kitchen in Slovenia. I also thought that such a global collaborative event had to be documented differently, not directly associated with the cooking skills of Slovenia, but by applying a valuable skill of hand-made lettering, I have acquired in London while attending a pioneering course on experimental typography at the University of the Arts. The course reopened endless thoughts and searches on how one can make use of any traditional technical skill for a project and recycle it in another context to give it a new meaning.

I first prepared yeast dough, used traditionally in Slovenia at the carnival and at other special occasions, which needed to rise. I then created letter templates for letters based on Helvetica. Once I cut out the letters from the dough, the letters had to rise again. They were then deep-fried, drained from oil and decorated with icing sugar.

All photos were shown in an exhibition documenting the world’s largest communal snack on 5th April 2012 at Brooklyn Art Library.

 

France Prešeren’s New Outfit Installation / May 2010

Posted in Craft, Projects by andrejabrulc on 30/05/2010
Baptism at the River Savica

Baptism at the River Savica

Art installation in process

The monument dedicated to the most important Slovene poet, France Prešeren (1800-49), which stands in the central square of Ljubljana, was transformed for a day (21 May 2010) during the Fabula Festival, the central event of Ljubljana time as UNESCO World Book Capital 2010.  This public art installation gave the poet a new outfit covered in hand-made lettering from stanzas of his longest work in verse, Baptism at the River Savica.

I was very pleased with the final outcome of the work, which took almost a month to complete. Also, when finally installed, I was especially relieved to see that the tunic fitted the poet as if made-to-measure, when in reality I had to work with the tailor Lidija Kešnar around the measurements I made from a photograph.

Passers-by

And the hard work indeed paid off. The project was received very well by passers-by – and many of them took out their cameras! I was especially pleased with the comment by somebody from the City Museum who shared his appreciation for the project by saying that the installation was “more than culture” and that the city of Ljubljana needed projects like this.

Above all, I was particularly pleased that the media was interested in covering the project on TV Slovenia 1 as well as in print and online. For a full report of the project, photos and video of the installation showing my interview with the journalist Živa Rogelj see  RTV Slovenia, who said that “Prešeren was stoically coping with the adornment, while two other statues nearby were observing this moment in silence”.

Young typo enthusiasts, Živa and Luka

A report by the Slovene Press Agency was published in the national newspaper Dnevnik among others. Also, A.H. wrote in an article titled “Prešeren v novi preobleki” published in the national newspaper Dnevnik (22 May 2010) that Prešeren’s longest work in verse, Baptism at the River Savica, had received “a form as never seen before” and that “the project gave Ljubljana a new artistic inspiration”.

The tunic was only displayed for a day, but it is hoped that there will be other opportunities to show it for a longer period, or even that a more permanent place of display can be found.

Art installation for a day in all weather conditions

Many many thanks to the organiser, Študentska založba, who supported my project idea. A special thanks to my family for their moral support during the month and particularly to my mum who helped me with the making of the letters. And finally, thanks to the tough guys, Marko Murč and Primož Kuharič of Študentska založba, who helped me to install the new outfit, very heavy in weight indeed.

Installation team

More installation photos on Flick.

Press Release: France Prešeren’s New Outfit / May 2010

Posted in Craft, Projects by andrejabrulc on 20/05/2010

UNESCO World Book Capital 2010: France Prešeren’s New Outfit (Baptism at the River Savica)

Location: Prešeren Square, Ljubljana, Slovenia

Date and time: Friday, 21 May, from 8 am – 23 pm

Summary

The monument dedicated to the most important Slovene poet, France Prešeren (1800-49), which stands in the central square of Ljubljana, will be transformed for a day during the Fabula Festival, the central event of Ljubljana’s time as UNESCO World Book Capital 2010. A public art installation, giving Prešeren a new outfit covered in hand-made lettering from stanzas of the poet’s longest work in verse, Baptism at the River Savica, will be realised by the designer and illustrator Andreja Brulc.

Concept

The sculpture of the poet will be draped in a unique black tunic (pallerina), which is stylistically reminiscent of the cloaks fashionable during the time of the poet. The tunic will have a larger collar made out of a fine velvet, which will overhang the poet’s shoulders and will be tightened around the neck with a large bow. The tunic will then be divided into two parts at the back of the lower part of his legs and will continue in a billowing manner down each side of the pedestal to the first step of the monument. The statue is about 3 metres tall, with an additional 2 metres for the pedestal.

The selection of the text will be from the most important passages from the poem, and in particular those that are part of the school curriculum. The emphasis is especially on the connection of two vital speeches between Črtomir and Bogomila, the main protagonists of the poem. The purpose of the selection, and the execution of the whole design, is to conceptually connect the iconic status of the public monument to the work produced by the poet himself and the private voices of the speakers in the poem.

The text, executed in an experimental typographical manner, will run with the male voice on one side and the female voice on the other side of the poet’s sculptural body. The text begins at the same height as the book that the poet is holding, and this gives the impression of the letters falling from the pages. The overall design and experimental letter forms give a strong sense of the text travelling, coming closer and further away, and in this way attract the attention of readers, inviting them to read the poem.

Technique and material

The principal technique for transferring the text on the cloth is stenciling. The visual impact of the experimental typography is enhanced by the combination in the use of traditional techniques, such as sewing and stitching, knitting and crocheting, and patchwork letters made from textiles.

For more photos see on Flickr at http://www.flickr.com/photos/39890289@N05/sets/72157623978334159/

Photos of the tunic installed on the monument still to come.

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