Suggestion of Eating
Shown as part of Glorious Estate at Bruno Glint Gallery, December 2012
Curated by Annabelle Stapleton-Crittenden
In Suggestion of Eating, Sophie designed a situation to heighten the participants' awareness of their actions. The performance event took place in a gallery space which had an indoor and an outdoor space. Inside, chairs were placed facing in one direction, and when people arrived they, quite naturally, sat down. Sophie came out and made an informal introduction, where she addressed actions we do every day but don't necessarily think about: walking up the stairs, shrugging our shoulders or chewing. In what side of the mouth do you chew your food? she asked them. Do you chew fast or slow? Do you chew until all the food is in the smallest pieces possible, or do you swallow quite quickly?
Next to her was a stool with a freshly baked bread wrapped in a tea towel. She told them that she would like them all to eat this bread together. Whoever wanted to join, she said, could take the chair they now sat on and bring it outside. There, they would see a white oval line on the floor. She told them to place their charis on the on the line, each facing the back of the next. And then to sit down. They way people sat meant that they could either choose to look straight ahead, or, if they turned their heads, to look out on all the rest of the group. However, it felt very staged and unnatural, as people in a social situation naturally shape a circle, enabling them to look at each other. When everybody sat down, Sophie unwrapped the bread, took a bite directly of it, and passed it on to the person in front of her. He accepted it, and after looking at it for a few seconds, took a big bite as well. He was extremely aware of himself, being the 'first' person to go.
The bread then went on around, and it seemed that each person made their bite into their own performance - very self-aware biting the bread as the rest watched. Some people pretended to bite as an animal. Others very carefully turned the bread around to find the 'right' spot and then had a bite. At a certain point, one person refrained from biting directly off the bread and instead broke a piece off. After that, that was what everybody did. When it was half way around, people started to become more aware of how much was left - it became a matter of not being greedy, or, making a deal out of being greedy. Quite quickly, the bread was gone. Sophie stood up, said thank you, and the piece was over.Sophie was here interested in the designed, or constructed, situation. She wanted to heighten people's awareness of an everyday action. However, this action, eating, is a ritual carried out with friends or family.
Once people are asked to eat in front of strangers, it becomes an extremely self-aware situation. She was interested in staging this, and seeing how people would react. Would they even accept to join in the eating? Would people take the chairs and place them in other formations? And what kind of atmosphere would have been created if two people had chosen to sit on the same chair? None of these deviations happened though. She was also interested in the interplay between the individual's spot - the chair - and being connected to the group. Not physically but through the same piece of bread. The bread became immaterial as it was devoured - the group shared its disappearance and at the same time, became a little tiny part of one another by containing bits of the same bread in their stomachs.
workshop: something from nothing: a performance composition workshop | 5&6 July | Chisenhale Dance Space