There are two entirely different art scenes downtown which imperfectly overlap each other: Food and Gallery Art. What collaboration there has been so far has always gone one of two ways. Either a restaurant with an established menu hosts an art showing or a Gallery hires some cooks to cater its opening. In either case, one dominates the other. Thursday, March 28th was the sophomore showing of a project aimed at breaking this mold. , hosted by the Dinner Party Project, featured a curated art show, a planned three course meal, with dinner music by DJ KimBarely Legal. The Dinner Party Project has a lot of ambitions, few monetary resources, and promising, but raw, human resources. The Art world and the Culinary world are unforgiving in different ways and the whole point of the project is to make both accessible, accessible to both the aspiring artist/cook and to the audience, who as long as they are relegated to audience, are held at a distance from the art.
The theme of the work in “Appropriation” is a gesture toward a type of feminist, or at least gender critical art. All four of the artists are female, and all address themes of fetishism and objectivization, which are notions tied up into appropriation, or the nomination of someone or some thing as property. This is an oeuvre or genre of art, and I believe it was show curator Emily Kate’s intention to present that oeuvre in a basic way to her dining audience. The meal itself stood independently of the theme. They served Cuban pork over coconut rice and squash sauteed in a lemon ginger vinaigrette, a citrus spring green salad, and a yellow cake, served on porcelain tiles. One can read appropriation into the food service in a general sense: ‘Cuban’ pork, porcelain construction tiles as serving plates, but true to culinary convention, the food was catered to the atmosphere, season, and current culinary trends as much as it was to any theme in the show. It did, on the other hand, tie in amazingly with the Afro-Cuban electronica and rat pack remixes playing in the background.
The artwork is displayed on apposing sets of dividers, homemade out of recycled doors. Two sets of four panels appose one another, with the works of two artists on each makeshift wall. They are all what I would describe as ‘postmodern gender discourse’ works, where representation is made problematic in order to highlight some sort of subtext in object recognition. In the context of the show this sort of work is very ambitious, as the Dinner Party theme is at least partially motivated to make formal works less foreign and inaccessible. Works that use fragmentation and self negating formal conventions to symbolize social subtexts generally go way over the heads of general viewing audiences.
Implied here is the strength I find in the event and the reason I find it important. It reaches, utilizing a basic understanding of food, art, local culture, toward a unique yet accessible engagement through collaboration. Collaboration is key here. In collaborating, artists shoot at goals that they alone can not hit, and much of the process is accidental. For instance, socially mixing restaurant workers and college administrators in a gallery setting, mixes the culturally appropriated (laborers) with appropriators of culture (academia) in a novel way. This came as the result of the social atmosphere in Downtown Lawrence (a sort of fraternal DIY ethic), the same impulse that propels the local music scene that produced DJ KimBarely Legal, who coincidentally has historically engaged in feminist and activist concerns. In this instance she is an established artist lending her support to the event, in an act of voluntarily allowing herself to be appropriated, as I am attempting to do in reviewing it (though I don’t pretend to be as established as Kimberly). The Dinner Party Project is taking on challenges, with less experience and resources, that more established galleries avoid. We like that and want to help.
My final point of comment is less abstract. The potentials of Final Fridays is as limited by the degree of patronage as it is by the talents of the artists and gallery curators within it. In selling tickets to a curated dinner/show, Dinner Party is attempting to create a new form of patronage, which, if successful, will make much more possible in the Lawrence Art Scene. For this reason alone it is worth supporting and paying attention to. It may be a little late, but the works should still be up tonight at the ‘W’ catering space on 7th and Connecticut, check it out if you are in the neighborhood, and keep an eye out for the next installments, they promise to be interesting.