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Melbourne Silent Dinners

 

I muse on memories of the Melbourne Silent Dinner Parties, which all panned out to be incredibly romantic affairs – each night with it’s own bent, but all with an air of the amorous. The free flowing connections that formed on the first night have proven to become lasting friendships. Many of them stay in touch, and the group that formed around the couple who got engaged that night attended the engagement party. The couple, Joel and Karen, also plan to have a period of silence at their upcoming wedding embracing the energy in which they promised to get hitched. The evening had a subtle atmosphere, with much underlying the unspoken. Quite a calm group, with a lot of heart connection.

The second night of the festival was a much younger crowd than the first night, and got a little out of control. It was quite rowdy and heaps of fun, and it was no time before you couldn’t tell who came with who as the group merged into a mash-up. Peeps who certainly didn’t arrive together left together. One participant, Simon Eales left all his belongings behind, and when he showed up to collect them the next day I discovered he was a street press reviewer who subsequently wrote an article on the piece, the column called ‘Bangs? no Fringe’ for Front Row Arts in Inpress. His words may give you an idea of what the group were like. They physically connected by wrapping each other up in masking tape. At one point the whole table was tied together this way. Bonding! The group decided to break the silence around the table after about 3.5 hours. It’s the first time a group that has come in from a fringe festival has broken the Silence while still on the premises. Normally I find that when they are festival events, the participants approach the space as holding the silence, and feel free to talk if they are outside of it, but not before. Many a sidewalk debrief has occurred this way. This group ran down the sidewalk and ended up at the pub down the road and dissolved into the evening.

The third night it rained. No big deal, we had undercover, however it did mean that I had to break the tables up to make sure no-one got wet. This changes the dynamic as the groups are smaller and often curious about what it’s like ‘over there’ at the other table. With the help of one of the guests, we collected everyones car keys and played musical chairs with key pairs. Nice to break things up. One lady brought her partner along for his birthday, not telling him anything about the event until they got to the door and she quickly briefed him as I let them in. Wowswers, what a gift. We had a birthday cake, and sung the ol song in sign. Very sweet.

Behind the scenes it was one of the smoothest runs yet. Most of the crew came from my crazy extended family, as they are nearly all in Melbourne I seized the opportunity to collaborate with them in some Art&Life :: and loved every minute. What an incredible difference having all that support makes. And loads of them came along as guests too, which was about time! My particular thanks to the following for giving their time, resources, and wonderful selves to the events: Elizabeth Leticia Grace Cowin, Augustus Viola, Aviva Beecher Kelk, Emma James, Mary Kearney, Rob Krikori, Celia Ryan, Marg Welch, Mag Kearney, Frank Viola, Jack Viola, Susie Rourke, Danny James.

So now we head from one fringe festival to the other, as I prepare for Adelaide Fringe in March. The crew is coming together down there, and we have a few repeat offenders behind the scenes – we can expect to portion out potions on the plates with the fantastic Antonietta as our chef again, wonderful! The dates for that one are March 7, 8 & 9, so get your tix now at the festival website, or buzz me of you’d like to come help instead of buy a ticket, and see ya there in Mad March. Can’t wait to see some shows at AFF as well, and if you want my recommendation for something to see, check out Sketch The Rhyme!

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Silent Witness

An Afterthought on the Beirut Silent Dinner Party.

The overwhelming sense I felt mounting work in Beirut was how context fundamentally changes any action. In Lebanon, the work was politicised, whether that was my intention or not. In Beirut I was acutely aware of the dangers of Silencing the people, the importance of free speech, and of the proliferation of the Silent Witness through hardship and oppression. These incredibly loaded associations showed themselves through the overtly passionate, and almost dubious responses the idea provoked. The playful and lustful way the people then threw themselves into the experience had a bittersweet tone I hadn’t encountered before. An inspiring encounter with an undercurrent that pulls me along still, a year later.

This was my visual response to these ideas at the time.

Silent Witness_web

A Silent Proposal

My most sincere and heartfelt congratulations to Joel and Karen, who got engaged last night at the first SDP for the Melbourne Fringe when Joel, completely in the moment and without pre-planning it, got down on one knee with a ring, custom made at the table, and proposed to his partner Karen. Karen couldn’t exactly say yes, but she certainly accepted. It was a very emotional experience for everyone there with tears and standing ovations of the silent kind. Truly an example of expressing that to which words do not do justice. As the pair said today, there was such an overwhelming feeling of warmth in the evening, and the group of strangers quickly became a close community.

Magic does happen, and the more we create space for it, the more it multiplies.

It’s a love story!

Mexico Silent Dinner

A beautiful evening with 11 of us on a rooftop in Condesa, Mexico City. The group lasted three and a half hours which is a great effort. There was a grand countdown to midnight set to rival the anticipation of New Years Eve, and some really lovely conversation afterwards as well. I did begin a Mexican wave – one of the old Silent Dinner favourites, and the locals didn’t know what was going on. Needless to say it didn’t go far around the table! ha!

I had a wonderful evening. Half of the bookings didn’t show up, which is a first, normally there is the opposite situation, however, the relatively small group meant that I got to relax and immerse myself in the experience which was wonderful, and funny. There were some hilarious performances, Caleb’s impersonation of the Beatles is right up there – I’ve never seen someone embody pop music like that before.

A fantastic meal led by myself and my beautiful cousin Vera Rourke. Vera and I hooked into some memories to prepare this one. We served recipes from our childhood, and began the evening with Bruscetta a la Australiana (vegemite toast) .. fancy!! Went down a treat for the salty Mexican palate.

My sincere thanks go out to those who helped make it happen. Vera Rourke for suggesting it in the first place and hosting her second Silent Dinner Party, for developing the menu with me and jumping head first into the experience, it was really fun. To Caleb Franco for his support and humour, to Belmont for having such an amazing rooftop and for letting us take it over and to everyone who came along and became the work. Cheers guys x

New York Silent Dinner

Silent Pulse

New York, Thank you, what an insane experience for me! That was soooo much fun! We sat 47 at that table in that heat.

I do admit that forming percussion groups isn’t exactly my idea of ‘making as little noise as possible’ – but with such a buzz in the city I guess we can expect a beat, and you guys nailed it! Spontaneous group rhythm, Nudity, Dancing, blindfolds, limbo, laughter.. a lot of things to clap…

A huge releasing shout out to you all for coming.. I’m now digesting!

Prepping some Summer Silence NYC stylz

A Silent Dinner Party is happening in New York City, on Monday August 6th at 8.30 pm. Yay! The event is supported by Splatterpool Artspce and will be held in their hybrid art and living space in Williamsburg, Brooklyn which has in the past been host to many an underground dinner party, so it’s nicely warmed up. Check them out.

The menu will be summery vegetarian delights in a cook by colour sensibility :: bright, light and complex to match the days here and combat the swelter. Places at the table are limited and reservations are necessary. You can book by phoning +1 347 707 9612 or emailing honi@hedonics.com.au.  The event is $25 a person including the meal, and all proceeds go to supporting the new and wonderful Bedford Baking Studio on Bedford Ave in Williamsburg where the coffee is second to none! If you can’t afford a ticket but would like to come, you’re welcome to help on the night, just holler.

See ya when I’m not talking to ya!

Mexico and the US quietly approaching

The Silent Dinner parties are heading to New York City and Mexico City in July and August 2012. The word is now out for potential hosts! If you are interested in hosting a Silent Dinner with me in your home, drop me a line real soon. If you would like to come to one in any of these cities, drop me a line as well, and I’ll be sure to keep you posted, otherwise just check back in here on the attend page in the coming few weeks as times and places get decided.

Project Anywhere

The Silent Dinner Parties have been included in a great new project by Dr. Sean Lowry called Project Anywhere that supports art at the outermost limits of location specificity.
It’s a new approach to global curating for practice-based research outcomes in the arts. It doesn’t have many boundaries. It adopts a blind peer review system so should also have a hand at pulling apart a self referential system that makes art stars stars. This just means that the projects that are proposed to Project Anywhere are encountered without the reviewers knowing who the artists are, and so they can’t just take people on their past achievements – each proposal will be taken on face value.

aMaZiNg~**

It was launched through eFlux last month, and is accepting applications now for a 2013 season.
Check it out:
http://projectanywhere.net/

Nominated for AFF Award for Innovation!!

Fantastic news! The Silent Dinner Parties were shortlisted in the three events nominated for the Adelaide Fringe Festival award for Innovation! I’m honoured to receive the nomination, especially in the category of innovation.  I love seeing hybrid arts concepts being presented in unexpected environments. Participatory and performative arts take some crazy directions, and it’s good to see unlikely audiences embrace them so wholeheartedly. So, once again Adelaide, thank you for such an overwhelming experience!  Maybe see ya next year..

Adelaide Fringe SDPs

Well well Adelaide, there’s nothing like a fringe festival run to spice up this project. Let’s see what kind of antics we saw: One guy showed up with his arm in a sling, the cause of many a gesture, and after the dinner party on the street just took it off…  We had a blind date! Self fulfilling prophecy at work here: the crew and I were talking that night about how funny it would be to take someone on a date to a silent dinner, like “babe, I’m really into you, I just don’t want to talk to you!” and sure enough that night we got a couple who weren’t just on a date, but had never met before. They didn’t arrive together so had to work out who each other were at the table. As luck had it they were seated opposite each other, and apparently picked each other out straight away.  I’ve gotta admit, when I talked to them on the street afterwards, I wasn’t sure if there would be a second date, the lady didn’t seem convinced. I wonder if talking changed their opinions of each other. As a rule I find people much more agreeable without words, but that’s definitely a variable. The guy in this duo had stitches in his forehead, and since I had sliced my finger to the bone the night before, granting me an episode in emergency and six stitches along my knuckle, I had pretended throughout the night that I had punched him in the head, resulting in both our wounds. Love a bitta charades. There were people equipped with photos of their pets, grandchildren and favourite flowers – that’s prepared! Podium dancing around the swimming pool, the neighbour hanging his washing out on the line, only to gaze over the fence and see 25 people sitting around a dinner table together in silence! ha! He must have thought we were mad. We had a group of talkers. 4 women who came as a group for one of their birthdays. They hit the juice pretty hard, and were mouthing words from the start, which quickly became a whisper. Mouthing words to me goes against the request: Please do not use words – however I don’t like to police things too much. These events are for me more about creating an environment for people to play in. However, when the mouthing became a mumble, I did intervene. I wasn’t sure how to do it, so I got on my knees and begged them to zippit! The unfortunate thing here was that this made them feel a sense of defiance and they preceded to ignore me and continue talking, even though I repeated this action a few times. I guess this is ok, sometimes it’s good to rebel right? And I guess if willingly participating in an event gives you the opportunity to go against the grain, then I guess I’m happy to have provided that opportunity too. The only problem is that the people sitting around them didn’t really get to play fair. Ah, it’s kinda like disturbing class in primary school!

Overall it was an amazing experience. The run was sold out, so we had full tables each night. Opening was touch and go at the start, with a sudden storm crashing our outdoor setting an hour before the guests arrived, and blowing the marquee ‘smoking area’ into the pool! Wow, I wasn’t sure we’d get it together but sure enough by the first knock on the door, we were set to go.

My biggest thanks go to all who helped make it happen, Antonietta and Ayesha for the love that poured out of the kitchen, that was one seriously amazing menu!  I will have the recipe section of this site up soon, and desperate to share some of that food with you. It was a middle eastern influenced menu, and the desert was a certified love potion… To Rod and Coomba for their splendiferous service and all four of you for some [ineffable] kitchen antics – olive oil will never look the same again!  To Marg and Jahan for being such gracious hosts and adding so much personality to the events. To my mum, Trish, for showing up to one event, realising how much help I needed and staying and working on the whole run, thank you x To the Adelaide Fringe Festival for completely supporting a project that didn’t fit in the box, and helping me to realise it my way at every stage of the game. You guys really are supporting new and different ideas, and hybrid art forms, it’s amazing and I’m proud to be a part of it. And most of all, to every single participant, each and every one of whom became the work, embodying it, and filling the silent space with themselves and their interactions, thoughts, responses and (sometimes outloud) laughter.  Cheers guys, that run was a truly amazing experience for me.

Cameras were banned so I have no pics of the madness to show you, but oh how lovely to attend an event where you know you won’t be captured and posted online in the morning doing that certain something after two bottles of wine…

I did however sneak a few in the hours around the events, so here’s a bit of behind the scenes for ya:

Margaret and Jahan’s amazing back yard, on a night when it didn’t rain!
Antonietta at her incredible Moroccan pumpkin soup
Ayesha and the ‘erbs
Coomba and Rodney prepping zataar bread .. quite a spectacle.
desert was truly a love potion : pistachio halva, cardamom icecream, persian fairy floss, rose water toffee and rose petals. Quite out of this world.