5 The Precarious Art of Making Coffee

A reclamation of subsistence hacking

In this performance/installation, Nicholas Balaisis reenacts a photograph of a Cuban coffee maker “hack” from the 1990s, a period of severe economic crisis. Balaisis assumes the role of barista, brewing coffee for visitors and grinding beans with a mortar and pestle.

The piece aims to bridge the gap between maker culture in North America and the Global South. Making and hacking are emerging discourses, fuelled by new digital technologies such as 3-D printers. We are increasingly being invited to become makers and hackers in everyday life. This is particularly evident here in Kitchener-Waterloo, where local government and the universities have greatly supported and funded start-up culture and new media entrepreneurship, or “hack- trepreneurs .” Hacking and making are frequently equated with entrepreneurship, thereby limiting and narrowing their meanings. Balaisis’ intent is to draw attention to other iterations of hacking and making around the world that are decidedly low-tech and based in real-life necessity rather than hobbyism or venture capital.

The Precarious Art of Making Coffee also invites a critical reflection on coffee culture, which is both connected with artisanal culture in North America and “exotic” global consumption.


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