For the Interim exhibition, I presented a piece entitled ‘Breaking Bread’.
I had been reading about happenings, here and here, and was intrigued by the idea of an art piece away from the formality of art, and the structures of an Artistic movement, I was frustrated by the levels of complexity and layers of
faux depth the art world could present at times. I was yearning for art to be about genuine human connection. I wanted to create something as dynamic as a conversation between two wildly different people.
The participatory aspect of a Happening means you are putting value into the work via your presence – and the culmination of this same value being added by each participant of the group leads to something greater than the sum of its parts: a group rather than a set of individuals. The participation allowed for an immediately dynamic and shifting art experience rather than a static art object. The piece fed off the natural richness of social dynamics and inclinations to bond, and using the social lubricant of food and drink – the work created a framework for these interactions. In this light, the artwork has become more than a passive object to be to be gazed upon, it is something to be experienced and has a mechanistic feedback loop of organic social interactions.
I looked into other artists who also want to open up this communication stream, Lucy Orta and her collaborative piece ‘The Meal’ was a particular source of inspiration for this event but I wanted to go beyond that, using my prompts, to open up a harder hitting discussion.
On sitting down at the table, each person would be sat directly opposite another participant with several things on the table between them – a large loaf of bread for sharing, some hummus dip, a selection of drinks and some ‘conversation prompts’ in 4 distinct categories:
- Single Word Topics, e.g. Depression, Soul
- Hot Button Topics, e.g. Brexit, Gender Pay Gap
- Questions, e.g. What is your fondest memory? What gives your life meaning?
- Create Your Own Topic
I designed these prompts to be hard-hitting, to delve further into social topics than polite conversation would normally dictate.
One of the key areas I’m interested in outside of my art practice is the intricacies and tension of politics. It’s a subject inescapable and ever-present. It rewards analysis and the building up of arguments, drawing on rationale and logic but also rooted in experience and worldview. This aspect is present in the work, but also acted as a catalyst – the divisive and fractured post-Brexit surrounding which the entire country found itself in could lead one to pessimism and isolation: this work was an attempt to fight against that urge and reconnect.
In another sense, the strength of this piece for me was how little it took for other people to open up to near strangers – opening up to others has been something I find incredibly difficult
- What I gained from this:
Through this event, I reinforced an appreciation and understanding of how a simple act could prompt authentic connections; that I didn’t need anything overly complex to encourage people to share their intimate thoughts with another.
- What I’m going to take forward:
What I want to take forward the most is the forming of connections between people, and utilising the impact storytelling can have to connect to each other’s narratives. I want to explore how much people can project and reflect upon their own experience instigated by the smallest external stimuli. Going forward I want to focus on creating a dynamic sharing piece and have myself be the catalyst.
I want to explore the unresolved tension of unspoken thoughts and probe deeper into the audience’s consciousness.