MERCEDES DRIVE THRU - The Old Selfridges Hotel, London Fashion Week

As part of the Avant/Garde Diaries curatorial programme we worked with light artists Jason Bruges Studio to create a vast pulsating light installation which illuminated as diners drove through it, picking up emotionally compelling food. The Drive Thru featured a revolving restaurant, troupe of roller girls (The Doughnuteers), uniforms by Tour de Force, triptyich The Four Horsemen of the Oesophagus, specially choreographed soundscape and the only cheese-trolley in the world capable of sprinting from 0-62 mph in around 6.6 seconds. The design of the installation and menu itself (including the Big Merc) was developed following meta-research into the gustatory implications of in-car dining by Dr Rachel Edwards-Stuart. As part of the project Bompas & Parr further collaborated with renown nose Dawn Goldworm of 12.29 to create salami-based artisanal air fresheners, designed to dangle from visitors’ rear view mirrors.

When the Avant/Garde Diaries asked us to create an event for Mercedes the answer was simple. Mercedes makes cars, we explore food – a drive thru held the key. Realising the project, simply entitled the Mercedes Drive Thru, was a lot more complex. It involved almost a year of planning, a light installation by the celebrated Jason Bruge Studio, teams of engineers, chefs, rollergirls, sound designers and photographers as well as a perfumer, fashion designer and female body builder. The final installation itself and featured 55 Mercedes, 10,000 lights and some of the most calorific hot sandwiches known to mankind. This is the tale of the Mercedes Drive Thru, an installation so hairy and muscely you could really gorge on it.

The real work began following an investigation into the gustatory implications of in-car dining by flavour scientist Dr Rachel Edwards-Stuart. Her work contributed to the design of the space and the menu inspired by the physical, biological, ethical, architectural, and temporal dimensions of the car. Read her original essay in Appendix 1.We decided to host the project during London Fashion Week when there is limited time to eat between shows, which start every hour. Models, journalists and buyers go hungry as they dash between presentations and appointments. The Mercedes Drive Thru was our solution, an art installation that served emotionally compelling food on all fours within 180 seconds of arrival.

Guests emerged holding steaming meat luggage within minutes of entering. They had experienced a specially commissioned light installation by Jason Bruges Studio, a big and nasty soundscape by Dom James and our troupe of roller-girls, Marawa and the Doughnuteers.Following a six month intensive burger quest we deconstructed the popular sandwich and turbocharged it for a more intense gustatory experience. The resulting combination of sugar, fat and salt made the food deeply compelling, high in hedonic value and geared to stimulate visitors neurons. These are the cells that trigger the brain's reward system and release dopamine, the chemical that motivates behaviour, and makes you want to eat more. The same receptors are targeted by powerful amphetamines. You can find the recipe later in this book. Hold on tight!

The route took vehicles beneath Selfridges and along a 40m stretch of polished marble. This marble was a key inspiration for the project due to its role in exploring the theory of embodied taste. Polished marble surfaces are a signifier of good taste while the vector for flavour in meat is the marbled fat (eg in a steak). An adjoining revolving restaurant was provided for diners who arrived on foot to see the action.

Photography by Ann Charlott Ommedal, Beth Evans and Ben Pruchnie.
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