Leura Silent Dinner Party

On the tenth of May 2014 a Silent Dinner Party was held in Leura, in Australia’s Blue Mountains as a part of the performance schedule along side my solo exhibition at the Blue Mountains Cultural Centre.

Although I have lived in these mountains for nearly 5 years, I had not held one up here before. Since I was having the exhibit it seemed a good time to offer a gallery audience the opportunity to participate in some of these social sculptures that were referenced in the white cube. Despite many requests for a SDP in this area I have not felt a pressing need to do it, precisely because gathering in silence is not such a foreign thing here.There are many yoga and meditation retreats on these mountains and indeed one guest noted that she was aware that many of the participants had most likely done a vipassana meditation which requires 10 days of silence. This didn’t seem to dampen the desire of folk to come and we quickly had bums on all available seats. The experience reminded me that it is not a meditative environment that is created at these parties (although some guest have wanted that and managed to maintain their own calm, private, mindful state during the meal). Rather, these dinners create a space that reflects on language and allows for the more subtle forms of communication to be forefront (in often very unsubtle ways). At spiritual retreats, silence often means a lack of communication. You keep to yourself and don’t engage in eye contact or overt body language, you certainly don’t have conversations in mime, desperately deciphering what it is your mute interlocutor is saying. Whereas at my Silent Dinners, that is the stuff that they are made of. The earnest attempts at understanding each other in silence breeds a recognition of the importance of communication and it’s intricacies. It points at the hierarchy of information we intake, how we rely on words to express and receive that information, then throws it to the wind (usually in a fit of laughter).

If linguistic communication is one of the things that defines human beings apart from other animals, then the deduction of it from a social environment can be seen to be a return to an animal or primal state, that can reveal base elements of this human animal. Base elements that transcend cultural difference, and can play a hand at breaking down prejudices.

The Blue Mountains dinner was lovely by all accounts. It was a relatively peaceful beginning, then there was a point after the main meal where, as if by general consensus, the group decided to get active. I missed the cue for it as I was in the kitchen but all of a sudden people stood up and started mingling. Did you guys orchestrate that? There were 26 of us around that huge table in the wonderfully eclectic environment of Hayley West’s house. There was more than enough to distract the eye from the need to talk! The Indian inspired vegetarian feast was dreamed up and prepared by Charmaine O’Brien who has done extensive travel and research into Indian cuisine, specialising in street food she has a written book on the topic and her delicious recipes will be available on the eaten section of this site in the next days. The chats in the kitchen before the guests came were most enjoyable. I love learning about people and food! And where would we have been without a waiter, and what a waiter we had that night, Micheal Lovett you did it in style! All round amazing help from my mum, Trish Ryan who has now worked on or attended countless SDPs and come to quite enjoy them it seems, although she still mouths words (mother!) My thanks are to these folks, and extend to all the guests, it was great fun. We danced to those universal beats, jumped around in the shape of hopscotch out on the back terrace, and had a decided penchant for napkin origami, that is when one wasn’t throwing the napkins at unwitting folk. One of the guests, Meg wrote an account of her experience, which is a great read. Check it out on the post below.

I will most definitely be hosting more Silent Dinner Parties in the Blue Mountains in future so drop me line any time if you would like to attend one.

Thanks Mountains, I’m off again soon for a time, as I do when the winds here get so cold that they simply move through you. But I will, as always, return to ya.

Silence Forever

One of the London SDP guests left this anonymous note behind after the meal:

“There is a day in everyone’s life

when he or she is Silenced forever.

The ultimate truth of Life is Death

This is a celebration of death!”

 

I found this a really beautiful response.

Silence is impossible in Life, our bodily functions make sure of that.

Only Death holds silence’s true promise. Reason to celebrate death for sure!

Thank you anonymous guest, for this wonderful and poetic reminder.

hx

Adelaide Fringe Silent Dining 2013

Some moments from the events in March this year with the Adelaide Fringe Festival. It was a wonderfully animated run. Very theatrical, with silent performances and heaps of mime over the four nights. Could it be that we had a clown in our midst? Yes, the fabulous Mr. Bravo Child brought his refined sense of embodiment to the table for us all, with intricately detailed moments woven through every situation and imagined objects outlined in our attention, and offered for us to share. It was epic.

There was the Silent Band, complete with guitar smashing solo, an orchestra being conducted in the round with strings and wind, keys and more, an electro dance party with a DJ. complete with podium dancing.  Whoda thunkit – all that music without sound?! The romantic couple in a slow dance topped off the last hour on the last night – who needs music, let’s dance to the beat of our hearts x We had a few rounds of musical chairs, and I must say that the night the peeps from the fringe festival crew were in attendance it got rather competitive.. pouncing for that final chair! We had an award ceremony to commemorate that moment. 3 winners on one chair.. hoorah!

I really enjoyed the run. 30 people a night, 4 nights, aaahhhhmazing food – hard to top the love stack (see pictured below). Made for a great round of charades to the tune of the song ‘love shack, baby love shack’ which was also hummed on numerous occasions around the kitchen. But what a wonder when we decided to prep it in the greater outdoors on the first night. It was such an art to put together, the visual feast got a well deserved spectatorship.

The SDPs will see ya all in Europe soon xx

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!

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 in the making

Adelaide Fringe has been a blast the past coupla weeks, and the dinners are now approaching! The wonderful possie getting this bonanza together have come together in force, and we’re stirring it up.  Menus are in the making with Middle Eastern tunes. Seasonal and cooking by colour, it’s kinda like paint by numbers! And… go!

vege boot
Happiness is …