Throughout cultures and times, the communal act of eating has been an integral part of society and culture. The ritualistic ways in which we come together to share food speaks volumes about the norms, values and aspirations that shape our society. One of the first European artists to investigate on this subject and make food an integral part of his work was Daniel Spoerri. The Swiss artist was part o the Nouveau Realisme, an anti-elitist art movement that declared the mundane aspects of everyday life a form of art – think Pop Art, minus the fascination with consumerism. In the 60s, Spoerri rose to fame with his Fallenbilder, three-dimensional still lives that consisted of table tops filled with dirty plates, crumbs of bread and half-empty pots, frozen in time with the help of preservative glue and mounted vertically to the wall.
His practice later expanded to conceptual dinners, during which his guests would play an integral role. Once, he separated them into two groups placed at opposite ends of a long banquet table. Throughout the evening, he had waiters serve tiny portions of haute cuisine to the first half of the table, while the second half had to help themselves to simple food such as bread and stew. Members of the first group deemed themselves lucky, but throughout the evening, they grew increasingly unsatisfied with the small portions that left them hungry and began to long for their opposite’s food that, although simple, turned out to be surprisingly delicious. “The dynamics that unfolded between the two groups were fascinating”, Spoerri recalls. This comes as no surprise – after all, the envy induced by watching somebody else devour a meal that appears to be more fulfilling than one’s own is such a distinct and profound emotion that the German language has its own word for it: “Futterneid”.
Spoerri became the founding father of Eat Art, an art movement centred around food and dining, and later even founded a restaurant for which he would invite friends and fellow artists such as Niki de Saint Phalle to create conceptual dinners. Around the world, artists began to follow Spoerri’s footsteps – from Antoni Miralda, whose Food Situation for a Patriotic Banquet set up a table with plates of food-dye coloured rice arranged into the flags of the eight most powerful countries in the world that would mould into a homogeneous colour scheme over the course of the exhibition to Honey and Bunny, whose two-person dining performances challenge the societal norms as well as the ecological wastefulness underlying contemporary Western eating habits.
And it’s not only artists that draw inspiration from Spoerri’s practice: Yulia Belousova, a young curator currently based in Berlin, turned the Swiss artist’s idea of communal artist-run dinners into a curational concept. Under the title Ephemeral Dinner, Belousova regularly invites established artists to prepare a meal in cooperation with a young, emerging talent. She then invites a number of twenty people to come together and enjoy the food prepared by the duo and discover the work of the emerging artist, whose pieces are being exhibited at the dinner’s venue for one night only. By bringing the gallery to the dinner table, Belousova is hoping to build a relation of artistic patronage between the two cooks and to provide a platform for meaningful, cross-disciplinary connections. The 20 guests she invites to her dinners are thus not merely art collectors who might be interested in purchasing the works on view, but art lovers from all different kinds of fields – museum directors are seated next to art critics, and artists next to start up entrepreneurs.
At the most recent dinner Ephemeral Dinner taking place in Berlin, this concept proved to be the talk of town. Minor Alexander had been invited toto showcase his works andprepare a dinner together with German artist Gregor Hildebrandt. Given the opportunity to look at the colourful styrofoam pieces around them in an unusually intimate and relaxed atmosphere, fruitful conversations emerged, both with the artist himself and with the other guests present. One of them actually was Daniel Spoerri, who had a lot of fascinating stories to tell about the artistic dinner parties he had witnessed throughout his life.
For more info visit ephemeraldinner.com