«Doner» — is a snack bar that often has just one meal on the menu - a doner kebab (aka shawarma). A meal with clearly Turkish roots has recently gathered global recognition and popped up in many cities to which Almaty was no exception. Locals are not short of reasons to love doner: its is accessible, fast to make, and culturally relatable (we, eurasians, would much rather prefer doner over, say, a burger, especially with the rapidly growing islamic community, hence, demand for halal food).
The first wave of doners to start actively opening in Almaty occurred in the early 2000s. In just a few years after, doners expanded and almost entirely occupied the industry of street food cars replacing once popular samsa, cheburek, peremech, and hot pies. It is also interesting to look at the geographical span of doners. If in the beginning doners were usually located near bazaars in rather rural areas it became recently more common to find them in so-called "golden square" in the city center, subway stations and even in foothills of the mountains. All this allows to conclude that the number of people consuming this meal as well as their social status has changed drastically in recent years. Apotheosis of such "donerization" was a moment when young entrepreneurs launched a number of places specifically targeting fashion and hipster crowds.
It amazes that Almaty is the only city in Kazakhstan with this radical density of doners per square kilometer. And if you once wondered around Almaty you noticed that people use doners for all sorts of meetings from formal quick lunches to a full on evening date. That resulted in absolute impossibility to find anyone from the city who would not be familiar with doner. In other words, doners became an unofficial symbol of Almaty and played a significant role in the formation of its new DNA, and identity.All the factors listed above pushed us to research this phenomenon and… open up a doner. We recreated a snack bar that would appeal to be a regular doner from the outside, however, operating under its own particular system of laws. During working hours members of our team were employing various performative practices while wearing special costumes of service personnel imitating the process of cooking. Inside we had all the relevant equipment reminiscent of a classical doner setting: tables, chairs, menus, tablecloth, napkins, dishes and fridge with beverages. We placed a small TV with video art in one of the corners. On walls, as assumed, some absurd locally produced artifacts. In short, we made a doner almost identical to hundreds of others except there was no real food.
Our very own ersatz-doner was located outside of any artistic context and, in its appearance, was attracting a lot of people who did not care or knew about contemporary art.