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Fueling the Enemy Kitchen

by Nash Hott


On the evening of June 21, I was copied on an urgent email from Chicago-based artist Michael Rakowitz. Someone had broken into his Enemy Kitchen food truck, which was conceived as part of a larger project connecting Iraqi food and culture with the American public—bringing issues to the table and challenging the idea of who an enemy is through the communal ritual of eating. The truck was parked behind Babylon Bistro on Peterson Avenue, and after finding nothing of value in the truck, the assailant broke into the restaurant. The truck had been attracting negative attention ever since it was permanently parked behind the restaurant in 2012, and, now that it was inciting further property damage and theft, it had to go. Michael was having it towed the next day.

The museum had hoped to refurbish the truck and bring this project to the museum as part of his exhibition opening in September and documenting the damage was the perfect visual to use as part of the campaign to fix the truck. So, the next morning I was in a cab with our staff videographer, camera gear in tow, driving up Lake Shore Drive and through Edgewater to the West Ridge neighborhood, on Chicago's far North Side.

Babylon Bistro looked empty, so we headed out back to find the truck. As we turned the corner, there it was, the unmistakable upcycled ice cream truck (circa 1960) painted army green.

Fueling the Enemy Kitchen video still


I left the back alley of Babylon’s with mixed feelings. It was a little bit disheartening to see the once important artwork and community engagement piece so disrespected with tags. But they were validations that this truck, and the conversations it attempts to provoke, are still very necessary. I am hopeful that we will see this truck transformed. With the help of our Kickstarter campaign, the public can take that which was once a nuisance and again turn it into a living, breathing work of art.

Donate to the campaign today through August 31 and join us on September 16 and 29 and October 22, when the Enemy Kitchen food truck activates the MCA Plaza.