The theme is: Dining together. All participants work from the same theme. Creating their own work, based on their own perspective on the theme. For many, dining together is about joy, nice food, sharing, birthday parties, Christmas etc. For me it’s about a love-hate relation I have with food. What tastes nice is mostly not healthy and visa versa, and what looks nice doesn’t always taste nice. Dining together comes with a lot of expectations, it’s not just eating or having a bite, it’s dining with a capital D; full of rules and regulations about how to eat and how to behave to make the party a success.
For me, dining together, feels like being in a straight-jacket tight to an excessively set table with a giant pudding in front of me. With that in mind I start sketching and writing. To convey my perspective, I think I have to show it; a performance-installation. I made a straight-jacket of a heavy damast tablecloth. I gave it a nice collar, satin trims and pearl buttons. Strong leather belts attached to the long sleeves makes sure escape is impossible. To set the table I use the silverware of my grandmother. Unfortunately, there are only a few pictures of the performance. So, you have to use a bit of imagination as I talk you through it.
There I sit, with excessive make-up, ditto hairdo, a lace skirt and bare feet. Tight up in a fancy straight-jacket, sat at a dining table, with rows of cutlery as a promise of all the dishes still to come.
The candle is lit for a romantic atmosphere and all the glasses are filled, ready to toast on the happy occasion. It looks like the first dish is a big pink raspberry pudding.
But I can’t do anything, I am stuck in my straight-jacket, my arms are tight. The pudding looks tasteful, I love raspberry pudding. As I lean a bit forward, I can smell the red fruit and the sweet sugar. It really seems like a very nice pudding. When I bent over a bit more, stretch my neck and stick out my tongue, I can even taste it. It really is the nice pudding I hoped it would be. But I am stuck in my straight-jacket, not allowed to do anything.
I try to resist the temptation of the big pink pudding in front of me as long as possible. But now I have tasted that raspberry delight, the task seems impossible. Finally, I can’t control myself any longer and have to give in to the urge to stuff myself with the pudding anyway I can. I bury my head in the plate, gobble up as much of the pudding as quickly as I can.
Then I realise what I am doing. What a dog I am. That I was too weak to control myself, to behave. And for the first time I take notice of all the people standing around looking at me. I look at them for a moment, my face covered in pink pudding. In shock of what just happened I quickly get up and start to run, fleeing the scene. End of the performance.
As I am fleeing the scene, it becomes apparent that my straight-jacket and the tablecloth are one piece. So, when I ran away, also the tablecloth was pulled from the table. All the plates, cutlery, glasses with wine, the candle and leftover pudding tumbled up in the air and down on the ground. Leaving behind a mess of scattered cutlery, broken glass and china and spilled wine and pudding.
After the performance the table, chair, candle and straight-jacket-tablecloth was setup at art gallery KunstOort. There in all silence the scene and stains told their own story.
Nathalie Abbing’s performance in the Straight-jacket-Tablecloth finished with a big mess. Parts of the residue from the performance are placed together to form an installation, open for new interpretations. Now, the installation asks the question: What has happened?