Miami Art Week 2022: Artist Mattia Casalegno’s “Aerobanquets RMX” at Superblue

A first-of-its-kind culinary experience served within a mixed-reality world

An immense, interactive art-saturated playground, Superblue Miami houses shifting floral walls, bubbling piles of massless clouds and a 3,000-LED installation that flickers to the rhythm of collected heartbeats. Running only this Miami Art Week 2022 (on now through 4 December), the immersive venue also invites guests to dine on potent little bites developed by the highly awarded chef Chintan Pandya (of SemmaDhamaka and Adda acclaim). These delectable nibbles, however, are served while each attendee is traversing the deep realms of a surreal virtual world within an Oculus. Presented by Meta Open Arts, the perspective-shifting, mixed-reality experience is titled “Aerobanquets RMX” and it’s the groundbreaking vision of Naples, Italy-born, NYC-based artist Mattia Casalegno.

“Aerobanquets RMX” is a magnificent, carefully woven artistic world, where the art informs the food and, in turn, the food further influences the art. “We were inspired by The Futurist Cookbook. That’s where we started,” Casalegno tells us. Published in 1932, the book is a collection of surrealist recipes anchored in the idea of a utopian future, penned by Italian poet and theorist F T Marinetti. “We built the different scenes and environments found in the book, then we turned back to the menu. We thought about flavors and colors inspired by the virtual spaces we made. And then we went back and further developed shapes and colors,” Casalegno says.

Food affects feelings—this is a notion has been addressed in the story, as well. “We want to engage the feelings of our guests,” Casalegno continues. “We also address how flavors converse with color. We play with expectations. We are not giving you any idea what you are about to eat. No one should know this in advance.” The visuals shift. Realities melt away. Virtual objects appear.

Prior to putting on the Oculus, attendees are told by the on-site team how to find the lip of the ceramic vessel that their courses will be served on—this is a lesson that enables people to reach for the vessel in the virtual world with their digitally animated hands, and find it in real life with their actual fingers. The narration by chef Gail Simmons and the emotional, evocative imagery obscures the brain’s expectations of the real-life food. It’s surprising how much our other senses influence what we are about to taste.

“The most interesting part of this menu is that everything has to be bite-sized. There has to be multiple layers, multiple textures and multiple flavors in one small bite,” Pandya tells us. “As a chef, initially it was very difficult for me to think about how I could compose it all, but I think that’s the fun of it. Your creativity has to flow. You must question everything that you’ve learned.” Pandya’s cuisine, produced by Flavor Five Studio, is active, unexpected and flavorful.

Altogether, it’s a wondrous, sensorial pairing that tests the palate in ways never done before. Through all our experiences in virtual and augmented reality, nothing has tapped into the sense of taste. It’s not only memorable, but a milestone in the capabilities of the technology.

Images courtesy of World Red Eye