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GALLERY 2014

mobilization

Earth Table

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Description of campaign/project


This project is inspired by a series of collective dining events, which was organised by an activist group called "Anti-capitalist Muslims" from Turkey, happened during the riots in Istanbul 2013. The event was a reaction against the wild-capitalist and discriminatory politics of the current pro-Islamist government via public space interventions. The idea was simple: They organised Iftar meals (the evening meal during Ramadan) at Taksim square that the participants sit on the bare ground, bring some simple home-cooked meal and share it with anonymous people. These collective dinners gathered thousands of individuals from different fractions of Turkish society (religious, atheists, LGBT groups, liberals...etc.) who are also fed up with the discriminatory discourse of the current politics.
The idea was so successful and emotionally-moving that it ended up almost one kilometre long dinner at the middle of Taksim district, despite of the police forces`` intervention. After the dinner during the live interviews, one of the participants has said that "this should be what revolution feels like"...

After witnessing this event, I realized the unifying potential of food and cooking which I think a reminder of the fact that we are (still) subjected to the same destiny at the end of the day.

Earth Table project is an interactive performance piece, designed in the form of a “happening” aiming to bring together asylum seekers, immigrants, counter cultures as well as local communities and performers. There is going to be a physical theatre performance in which the performers cook an actual meal during the act. The act is going to be presented in various public squares also inviting spectators to participate the happening by joining the Earth Table, the collective dining, at the end of the performance.

Food and cooking celebrations are one of the oldest rituals of human society. In this particular event, food and cooking experience is going to be used as a facilitator of dialogue.

Physical theatre is an ideal medium in this context as it requires alternative ways of communication other than the spoken languages. The performance is aiming a visceral expression by using movement, rhythm and sound.

Participation of different fractions of the society is essential in this project. Earth Table is the the medium on which the collective dining took place. It is a "poor table" installed on the ground which offers a modest dining experience. It allows the participants to sit face to face and share a meal, or even maybe a little chit chat.


The project favors a direct, face to face communication approach within the context of "radical intimacy". As a performance piece, by its very nature, it is unique to the time and space in which it is created.

Earth table is the public sphere which is going to facilitate a dialogue between different fractions of the society. Earth Table aims to eradicates the border between the spectacle and spectator by offering all participants to be a part of the final outcome. It is a multidisciplinary event which employs the elements of visual and performing arts. In terms of visual design, we intend to blend ethnic patterns on the fabrics and instruments which are going to be used as props during the performance. It is also possible to say that sensory experience, especially sense of smell, is also a part of the communication process.


Dialogue is a tricky term in these days. It is easy to exercise it without leaving our sheltered, comfortable zones. In this context, I believe that corporeal presence is crucial to experience the real challenges of an intimate dialogue. Sharing a meal, a song or a prayer with a person who we would think we had nothing in common (or normally would feel uncomfortable in their presence), may provide a space sterilized from statuesque and bias.


I am inspired by this project because it is challenging the participants to question the concepts of diversity, unity and status. It is easy speak about unity, dialogue, empathy...etc. But it is a challenge to physically share a space and create something with a person who you would not likely to come together in your daily life.

I also like this project because I believe that human communication is a highly complex area and sometimes spoken language might create more distance instead of creating a common ground. Thus, sometimes physical action, movement, sound, singing are much stronger then the spoken language in certain contexts.

Curators comments More info on Curators & Editors ›

This is an equisite instance of a tactical media event that engages with vulnerable people (such as asylum seekers) in one of the most human, intimate and simple forms of dialogue and encounter: sharing a meal.

The documentation of the extraordinary event in Istanbul in 2013 is suggestive, moving and dramatic. It is indicative of how moveable this feast is and can be. And also how strategic and capable of critically drawing public attention to social alienation, disaffection, oppression and lack of hope.

A beautiful concept that pulls no punches in the rigour of its uncompromising exposure of social alienation and the lack of state or national responsiveness to it.

I'm very curious to know how you would curate this as part of Memefest at Swinburne? Is this something you would like to do, or feel you should do?
Or would you install documentation of the Istanbul event?

Thank you for sharing such a powerful, sensitive and humane work.

View other works commented by Darren Tofts  ››

It would seem that dinner parties have now become recurrently imagined sites of change and challenge to social conventions. And why not?

This idea had a familiar ring to it, quite similar to the 'How much is enough' project curated in 2013: http://www.memefest.org/en/gallery/works2013/1137/

It's clear, however, that this proposal arose from the protest movement in Turkey and, as such, has its own merits. I have respect for concepts that emerge out of practice rather than the inverse because witnessing what works 'in the field' and then replicating it has always been an important part of protest culture. What makes things exciting now, thanks to networked societies, is our ability to learn from successful patterns around the world and reproduce these models locally.

And so, the notion of disparate groups brought together by a common cause, sitting down to a meal and breaking social barriers is a beautiful one, all the more because it actually happened.

I am encouraged to hear that the plans to reproduce this are underway and that careful consideration has been given to ingredients of the recipe, when attempting to replicate these dynamics. Here, the social context and the mix of participants will be key and the instance described, that of a socially and economically diverse group of participants in Malta, seems right on. Had the plan involved reproducing the table at an art festival, with a homogenous and elite crowd, one could not hope for similar results.

I wonder further about other important elements for making this work...

What about facilitation and moderation? Are servers going to stimulate exchange and conversation? I would like to know more about that because it is sometimes the biggest challenge when bringing new crowds in contact.

If done right, I see a lot of potential here. Certainly this is a transformative experience for those in attendance but it could reach a lot further if the exchanges were captured, recorded and then amplified.

What if someone strolled and captured snippets of conversation, that could be later be mixed with video of the diners? In this way, the event would generate a digital footprint that could carry impact well beyond immediate participants, even if the immediate goal is to create the 'radical intimacy' of the dinner table.

View other works commented by Tom Liacas  ››

While the gesture of sharing food is now part and parcel of post-contemporary art production via relational aesthetics-this project still creates enough resonances with the core impulse of sharing food as critical gesture that points to issues beyond the table. Perhaps too anti-anti utopian in style and method, but always worth pursuing none-the-less.

View other works commented by Ricardo Dominguez  ››

Other comments

berrak
4 years, 9 months ago

Dear Darren, Tom, Ricardo;

Thank you very much for your recognition and
valuable comments...

Since we started implementing the project in June 2014, I am questioning myself a lot about how to maintain the "organicity" of the project...The Ramadan dinners organised by Anti-Capitalist Muslims in Taxim had arise from a true reflex, an immediate and synchronized action for unity against the government`s discriminatory politics. This is why it is un-reproducible; strong, sincere and intimate.

However, the dynamics of the Earth Table Malta is quite different. Although Malta is a hot-spot within the immigration problem of Europe, there is still a lack of reflex in terms of taking immediate action among the communities. Therefore, our preparation stage is also about the search for a collective impulse which could bring people around the table as "individuals" without pre-set agendas meanwhile avoiding Utopian or kitsch scenarios.

As I spent more time trying to built up this event by communicating with asylum seekers, activists, churches...etc (and also hours of self-reflections during my recovery after the accident) the original structure of the project seemed to be lacking of truth and intimacy. To be honest, I felt that my "intention" was a bit fake...Why? Because, I was taking too much things for granted and most importantly I was framing the participants as asylum seekers, locals...etc. I was ignoring the individual aspect; including mine. What was my real motivation, expectation while sitting around the table? Or, do I really, really crave for an intimate dialogue? Is it that easy? What am I looking for in this experience? Am I open for all types of discussion that might arise? I mean seriously; me, as the petite bourgeois, how much willing to get out of my comfort zone? In the end, is this project really capable of creating an intimate content rather then creating a pseudo image?

On the other hand,I still believe that sharing a meal together is a very strong archetype for starting a dialogue between distant/alienated communities. It is also a reference for equality and inclusion. However, for an intimate dialogue, we need more than a spectacle... After making all the inner math I decided to change my approach. The documentation of the preparation process (meetings and discussions with the people who we invite or ask support for the table) has become as important as the final event. At this point, I am preparing two different material: a personal diary and a documentary of the current dialogues with audio, video and photographs as much as possible.
In addition to this, w also decided to change our approach to facilitation and moderation. We gave up the idea of cooking performance. It might happen in latter productions but for this event, we prefer to keep it as simple as possible. Instead, we decided to start with a sharing, a short memory or story which will be told by the volunteering participants but, our intention is to interfere as little as possible...

We will be documenting the final event as well; my main intention is to create a mix media work which combines both processes... We would be happy to share the final work with you...

Curators comments

This work has been commented by 3 curator(s):
Darren Tofts Tom Liacas Ricardo Dominguez go to comments ›

Entry details

Title

Earth Table


Headline

A Collective Cooking Happening


Concept author(s)

Berrak Eyiceoglu


Concept author year(s) of birth

1982


Concept author(s) contribution

I am the conceptual author of the project. I also work as the creative director within the project.


Country

Turkey


Other author(s)

Mark Cabourdin


Other author(s) year(s) of birth

1974


Other author(s) contribution

Mark, as an established actor and director, is the director of the physical theatre. Mark is experienced in community outreach projects as a director as well.


Country

Malta


Competition category

mobilization


Competition field

nonacademic


Competition subfield

artist


Subfield description

As former art student, I worked in Advertising Industry for several years. Currently, I am settled in Malta and working on my post graduate thesis in the filed of Performance Studies. In my artistic investigations, I frequently use video and sound installations and trying to match them with other sensory experiences such as olfactory and tactile. I try to go beyond the usual perceptual conceptions of everyday life. I am going to exhibit a work in October in Malta.