Monday, May 24, 2010

30 Days of Dinner Time, Day 22

In the window.... well, tonight was a different night. Heather and Emily were scheduled to spend their dinner time together, two artists who had never met before. Unfortunately, Emily had some serious transportation issues getting to the gallery. For the first 25-ish minutes, Heather was alone in the window. For about a half hour the gallery owner, Mary Ellen, stepped in to chat while finishing her cocktail for the evening. After 8pm Emily arrived and began their planned dinner time. So this dinner was a unique experience, even for the piece.

For dinner Heather brought a Mediterranean spread, flatbread and cucumber salad. She brought cookies for dessert, sparkling water, and homemade chai. Fortunately she had enough food to begin eating dinner alone. When Emily arrived, she contributed blood orange juice, fried dumplings and a mini pie to share.

Speaking with Heather afterward, we each had potent but varied images of the evening. She expressed a sense of sterility in the white space alone while I was overwhelmed with awkwardness on her behalf. As she didn't expect to spend part of the evening on her own, she didn't have a form of entertainment besides the food. She quickly took to using the dinner elements as building blocks for an edible city on a plate foundation. She was both forced to be aware of herself in the space without retreating to another world (books, music, tv), though she still managed to find another world to reside in for a while.

I began to consider the idea of failure during this first leg of the night. What does it look like for a piece of this style to fail, to break down on itself. What are those parameters which it can avoid to remain functional and how far outside can it go before unrecognizable transformation occurs. The concept of failure begs not only to understand the outermost limits of the piece, but also a clear understanding of its identity.

When Mary Ellen decided to pass the waiting time with Heather, I found it both a relief and incredibly stressful. Not acting as a simple intermission, this kind gesture divided the evening into three acts. While watching them talk together, Mary Ellen not eating food and Heather feeling too conscious to eat alone, the expectation of Emily's arrival became physically tangible. While I was glad the piece organically solved its own issues, the tension of watching the second act, the space holder if you will, was unexpectedly tense... only because it pointed to the need for a third act and its indefinite nature.

When Emily did arrive, she was thrown into an experience that everyone else had become very comfortable in. Almost like the new kid at school. She adapted with grace and began a dinner time which represented the imperfect scenarios of life which often manipulate our outcomes. They talked together for over an hour, exceeding what some others have had on a "normal" dinner. Going yet again to very intimate topics (they told me afterward) the conversation was undesirably interrupted by three young men who became boisterously interactive from the outside. Whether out of frustration or a little fear from this interaction, they opted to end their dinner time two and a half hours after it technically began.

This night was as good as it was tense. At the end, as so many have said after their dinner time, the two women were relaxed and grateful for the intimacy of a tiny room with a glass wall. I was grateful to see my own piece shift, almost violently, before my eyes. Perhaps its full identity is still in the works, but nights like this refine it into a more articulate and strong version of itself.

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