After my last tutorial I looked at the work of Lucy Orta, a Professor of Art and the Environment at London College of Fashion and currently the Chair of Art and the Environment at the University of the Arts London. She has a background in Fashion and design and as you can see from her website, was instrumental in the work HortiRecycling as below,
All in One Basket (act I) in 1997, HortiRecycling Enterprise (act II)
Drawing from the founding motto of the Secession “To every age its art and to art its freedom”, as well as the proximity of the fruit and vegetable Naschmarkt opposite the gallery, Lucy + Jorge Orta devised their first recycling enterprise.
Instead of discarding damaged fruit and vegetables, market vendors were given the artists’ Collect Units, silkscreen-printed bags, to fill with rejected produce. These were then collected with the Processing Units, mobile kitchens with sinks, hotplates, and freezers. Ripe produce was cleaned, and cooked on location by famous chef. Delicacies were offered to the general public, in exchange for discussions about sustainable initiatives.
Orta installed a fully-functioning kitchen, in the Gallery ,complete with a wooden winch reminiscent of the medieval pulley systems used to haul groceries in baskets to the upper floors of tall buildings. Market produce was sucessfully delivered to the gallery, cooked, bottled or frozen in dainty portions ready for distribution. This effective pilot action linked market and the gallery, art and life, building links with diverse communities across the city and demonstrating the power of socially engaged practice, to bring about change.
There followed many different versions of The Meal, the most recent of these being
70 X 7 THE MEAL, ACT XXIX, PETERBOROUGH HARVEST
Date: 20.09 2015
Materials: Table set for 500 guests with two editions of Royal Limoges porcelain and a silk jacquard table runner
Dimensions: An open-air lunch in the city of Peterborough
Exhibition history: 2015 Cathedral Square, Peterborough, UK
Courtesy: Lucy + Jorge Orta, Metal Peterborough
On Sunday September 20, 2015 thousands of people descended on the town of Peterborough for an extraordinary public art event, ‘act 39’ of Lucy + Jorge Orta’s ongoing public art work, 70 x 7 The Meal.
An immense table setting for 500 guests adorned the Cathedral Square, to welcome in the harvest moon and take part in a revival of Peterborough’s 8000 year-old agricultural heritage. For this unique occasion, Lucy + Jorge designed a bespoke dinner service of commemorative limited edition Royal Limoges porcelain plates, a silk jacquard table runner woven with gold thread, and an offereing table complete with hundreds of loaves of bread and giant bread boards carved by residents of HMP (Peterborough).
70 x 7 The Meal act XXXIX represents the artists’ first outdoor meal in the UK, in the on-going series of worldwide dining events that bring communities together to discuss issues related to food, its distribution and production. As with all ‘acts’, seven guests invited seven others, and so on, thereby creating a chain reaction that ensures a diverse mix of people are drawn together. Along side a public lottery, volunteers from Peterborough’s Soup Kitchen catered for hundreds of spontaneous guests. The Harvest food was prepared by renowned chef Lee Clarke, and sourced by Peterborough farmers, city allotments and community growing projects. Together with award-winning milliner Eloise Moody, five hundred loaves of bread were baked with provocative messages inside, to stimulate conversations between diners.
The series of works are inspiring and tick so many participation and social engagement boxes that I feel uncomfortable critiquing them. They are beautiful in every sense of the word…from the way that the diners are selected, the Limoges porcelain and the table runner and loaves to the groups from the local soup kitchen volunteers and prison.
I think this is what I find difficult about it….the immaculate nature of the finished work and the amount of control needed to make everything work so well together.
This is yet another work that I admire for its results and scale of execution but find too polished, almost to be real.
It is Regal not Raw and gains so much from this elevated status of perfect dining and so the associated ritual and to some extent the reversal of ritual which occurs within each piece is tremendous.
But I cannot imaging producing a work as perfect as this and nor would I want to.
Again I rely and enjoy chaos and happenstance.
The latter is in evidence here but is still controlled, the coincidence of invitations is overridden to some extent by the messages for discussion within the loaves…( though whether people stuck to the topics for discussion I’m not sure..)
Also working with such large groups of people in an organising capacity is not something I would want to do at the moment.
I prefer a more personal and intimate approach to social engagement.
Having met Hannah and participated in her workshops some time ago I know that her social vision shines through in her work but that the relationships which develop through the research for and in the making of the work allow for discovery freely and that there are skills of careful facilitation rather than overall design.
I guess in terms of hierarchical working it sits easier with me.
Though in Orta’s case I may be confusing an aesthetic of finished work with a different process which together subvert the usual status of a formal meal.
I’ve looked at the website discovered this piece, The Laundry of Sorrows, which has the sensitivity and feeling of collaboration I would like to employ myself but still a great theatricality to it which I haven’t yet wanted to use in my work.