30 Days of Dinner at Art on Armitage

by Shannon Schmidt

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In the storefront window at 4125 W. Armitage, rested two white folding chairs--empty, yet open and awaiting occupants; a table that folds down; and a white clock that ticks away the time, hanging on the wall in upper left corner. Time was a major component in this piece, 30 Days of Dinner by performance artist Kimmy Noonen. Until seven o'clock, the only inhabitants of the window were the objects that point to the storefront's current function: performing dinner.

30 Days of Dinner stretched through the month of May as the artist
invited participants to dine during the hour between seven and eight
each evening. Usually in couples, but not always, the performers brought
a meal to share and anything else that may be of use. For performers,
this ranged from pillows to musical instruments or a scrabble game to
graduation decorations.

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From the street, the audience stood, paused while en route or sat in the
arranged metal folding chairs to stay and observe the daily ritual of
dinner. Performers and audience members became one, as most participants
later watched the other performers, and audience members later
volunteered to participate. To the audience, the participants performed a
silent moving picture, a series of familiar gestures, a dwindling
family tradition, a live spectacle, a human zoo or an art piece.
Generally occupied with consumption and conversation, the couple or
group of participants remained in the small enclosure--seen but unheard.

Lauren Ocon and Ashley Brayley participated the evening of the closing.
The two stepped into the small space, adjusting a fan for comfort and
sat down to begin their meal of local sandwiches. Due to the minimal
touch of Noonen, regarding the storefront setting, the participants
became the composition, bringing with them whatever bright colors they
wore and
objects they displayed. Once the diners step onto their stage, the
minute details became exaggerated: a quick look at a phone or text, the
fidgeting with one's shoe, the movements of the clock, and of course,
the gestures passing back and forth between participants. The design of
the piece also allowed for something that has typically been a faux pas
in American culture: the ability to watch, observe and even, stare at
other people while they're eating. Although the artist's intention was
to highlight one of our cultural traditions of spending time eating in
conversation with one another as an event to be witnessed and
celebrated, the piece also indicated some aspects of our daily routines
that we limit, remove, or alter due to social cues.

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As an observer of this performance, one appeared to be looking into
another's dining room, but instead of the interior being the focal
point, the performers with all of their familiarity became the central
interest. Each individual's responses, idiosyncrasies, habits, apparel
and body language expressed the content of the conversation and how the
participants related to one another. Although this piece is not unique
in its use of dinner as art or even using the idea of the human
spectacle--contemporary artists Rirkrit Tiravanija and Coco Fusco come to
mind--it subtly pulled those aspects together and focused on everyday
people sharing dinner. At a time in our culture when people work two or
more jobs, go to school, have extra-curricular activities and interact
more on social networks than in person, 30 Days of Dinner could
also be seen as a commentary on how we spend our time, what we value and
how we share ourselves with one another.

30 Days of Dinner
Art on Armitage
4125 W. Armitage; Chicago, IL
May 1st - May 31st Closing 5/28

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