An atmosphere of live experience prevailed at this year’s GI Festival. This is the 5th year of the biennial event and under the direction of Katrina Brown, the festival has expanded to include 130 UK and international artists showcasing work across 50 venues in Glasgow with more than 90% of the work newly commissioned or previously unseen in the UK. Several of the live events used ‘eating together’ as a theme. One of the most popular was No Meal is Complete without Conversation, a series of free, bookable lunches at a private residence in Glasgow, conceived by artists John Shankie and Andrew Miller.
“my own interactive dining experience with food prepared by artists at the old Pipe Factory which is a new artist-run studio situated in the East of Glasgow.”
Food ticket stubs, Courtesy of the GI Festival.
Glasgow’s Gastronomic Performance Art
By Diane Torr
Fourteen lucky punters at each luncheon were participants in this event. I was unfortunately a tad tardy in booking a place so I missed out on the free meal. However, a close friend, artist Rowena Comrie, called it a “delicious, aesthetic experience.” I don’t know whether she was trying to make me feel jealous but she began by describing, with great glee and gusto, the starters of smoked widgeon, hot smoked salmon, humus, olives, followed by…” I changed the subject and asked her about the company and the conversation. Apparently it was mainly art people talking art (well, wadyano!)—a gallery owner from Fife, the work of a gallery in Aberdeen, arts organizations in Glasgow, and the artist, Christine Borland, whose birthday it was, so the meal ended with birthday cake. Rowena suggested it was a contemporary direction—the idea of going somewhere to make conversation and eat delicious food, prepared by artists. Yes, I like that concept.
I had my own interactive dining experience with food prepared by artists at the old Pipe Factory which is a new artist-run studio situated in the East of Glasgow. One evening at the beginning of May, I rang the doorbell and after waiting for a while, a tall, thin woman appeared with a white-powdered face, a subtle black line painted across it, and wearing a 1920s angular cut hat and black kimono. She led me up what seemed endless flights of stairs to a room at the top of the factory building at which nine people were seated. I was the tenth guest. The room was candle-lit and barely discernible odd objects were positioned on a table and a sideboard. Black and white slides consisting of lettered structures and linear designs slid intermittently across one wall. When I sat down, I noticed a message at my place instructing: ‘during the conversation, be sure to include the topic of swords.’ I duly did so, and noticed that the woman opposite kept bringing in the subject of ‘electricity’ and that other people around the table would suddenly infuse the conversation with other non-sequiturs.
At the end of the meal, we were each given a coffee cup into which is poured some whipping cream and a small electric whisk with which to whip the cream. After the cream is whipped, we were also given a single Royal Bank of Scotland £1 note. Each person took it in turn to set fire to their bank note and to let the burnt remains drift into the cream. I was reluctant to set fire to a £1 note—not a currency item you see every day. However, succumbing to the anticipatory looks of the other diners, I complied. Coffee was then poured into the cup and the whole mixture was stirred. We were each encouraged to drink and told that once in our stomachs, invisible charcoal drawings would be created.
Here is a quote from the artists:
“On initiating the project we were interested in the dining experience as a symbolic place of discussion where power relations can be realized and challenged.”
“The project is a relational one, however, we did not simply want to rely upon the ‘natural’ set of relations between a group of people in a room to frame as the performance but to deliberately curate these people – forcing them to undergo a selection process and awkwardly directing their conversation. This imposition hinted at a more fascist politic and reminded the diners that they were not supposed to totally relax during the meal but to work for us, for each other, for Italy.”
“Whilst creating the project we avoided a historical recreation of the futurists as a novelty, or adopt a retro futurist aesthetic that applied fascist situations to the present day, but instead sought to create from a futurist method a process that related to our own era and political standpoint. To this end the meal could be seen as a series of challenges to diners pallets, which were formulated to encourage criticality and reflection within the participants. This was about the relevance of past histories and the moment in which we find ourselves now; doubting of the stability of Western capitalist economies exemplified at the end of the meal by symbolic act of destroying and consuming money of unknown value and palatability.”
When I asked the artists who created La Cucina Futurista for an image, they responded: “We have decide not to record documentation of the event, although we do retain fragments of the project for ourselves we prefer to allow the project to be documented by the participants of which this article is one such document. We wanted to leave the possibility of myth-making around the Futurist dinner open which photographic documentation would limit.”