Wednesday, May 26, 2010

30 Days of Dinner Time, Day 25

In the window, Josh and Charline. Josh and I met in a totally unexpected and spontaneous way: a conversation at our shared laundromat (one of the many reasons I love Chicago). He listened to me go on and on about this piece and decided to participate. Josh's original dinner companion was unfortunately unable to attend, so Charline, another of his friends, stepped in to fill the role. May the reader note that Charline had a baby four short months ago who was at home... she looks stunning if you ask me.

For dinner they brought cuisine from Sultan's Market, a bottle of red wine and a large bottle of water to share. Part of the way into their meal it appeared Charline was not so fond of her food and asked to try Josh's. If memory serves me, this is the first time an overt food sharing gesture has occurred. She found his much more pleasing and traded for the rest of dinner, another first.

They also chose to sit on the floor of the gallery, picnic style. They told me afterward that this had to do with the length of the table. Intentionally designed to create more space than normal between the participants, the table has never repelled others from using it before tonight. If anything, pairs have modified themselves to suit its demands. Chris from Day 20 called it the "magically shrinking table", as their conversation became more focused the space between them fell away... but the distance was very much there to start. Josh and Charline are the first to refuse the furniture template regardless of their ability to conform to it.

As they talked, ate and wiggled around inside the window, conversations were happening outside in much the same way. Susan, my friend who participated in Day 2, stopped by to see the piece with her two pet geckos (in a box). A set of siblings sat for quite a while, one a Junior in high school and the other a 7th grader. The four of us talked about many things that kids that age deal with: school, establishing habits and identities, the future.

Susan seemed surprised that we talked so little about the dinner in the window, actually. She recalled from her own dinner experience the subtle but persistent feeling that everyone was analyzing her from the outside. After all, she was the art. Of course there are conversations and entire nights where the diners take center stage but that isn't always the case (apologies for let out the apparently well-kept secret). Like most forms of creative expression (visual art, theater, film, music), the end result of the gesture is intended both to be lovely AND to stimulate and motivate exchange.

The kids who stopped to talk may have first been interested in pet geckos or staying longer in the warm weather, but they stayed because they were given a place to see and speak about themselves in the reflection of something else. The art talk came toward the end of the conversation... and it wasn't formed around dialog speculation or academic rhetoric. Instead it was tailored to their needs, to the idea that things aren't always what they seem, that it's okay to sit communally before an idea and be pleased with its ability to liberate.

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