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In 2011 there will be feasting in Chicago.

In October of that year, the Smart Museum of Art at the University of Chicago will premiere Feast: Radical Hospitality and Contemporary Art,
an exhibition about the meal as a medium for contemporary artists. I'm
the curator of the exhibition, and over the next two and 1/2 years, this blog will host ongoing research for
the project.

Here's our current description of the show:

The act of sharing food and drink with others is a basic human pleasure and an enduring source of aesthetic inspiration. Today, the shared meal has become a compelling artistic medium: a surprising number of artists are using meals to advance aesthetic goals and foster critical engagement with our current culture. These artist-orchestrated meals can offer a radical form of hospitality that punctures everyday experience, using food as a means to spark encounters and perceptions that aren't otherwise possible within our fast-moving and overly segmented society. Feast: Radical Hospitality and Contemporary Art surveys these practices for the first time. Through a series of new art commissions in public spaces and a presentation within the Smart Museum, the exhibition will introduce new artists and contextualize their work in relation to some of the most influential artists of the last century, from the Italian Futurists to Gordon Matta-Clark and Rirkrit Tirvanija. Feast addresses the radical hospitality embodied by these artists and the social, commercial, and political structures that surround the experience of the shared meal.

Here's what you'll find on this blog:

1) Searching and Sifting:

I've chosen a few of the artists and works for Feast but am still in the "casting-a-wide-net" phase of research. There are more artists working with the meal than I had imagined when I first proposed this exhibition, and as I gather more and more information about artist-orchestrated meals around the world, I'm trying to understand how the meal fits within in each artist's practice and how it relates to their individual preoccupations. I'm also curious about whether trends will emerge and if strong connections will become visible within and across different generations and locations. (This is for the contemporary material; the historical sections are smaller and already more tightly formed.)  And of course, the research process has to yield an exhibition in the gallery as well as in public sites, one that holds together conceptually and physically and brings out the best of the artists' projects so they hold their own while also supporting the overall thematic framework. This blog will be one place to track research, analysis, and musings.

2) Reading Notes

Discussion notes about relevant texts: art histories, food histories, calls for massive structural change our current Euro-American food supply system, theories of hospitality and its importance in contemporary society, etc.

4) Research and Planning Notes

Travelogues; notes from informal "Kitchen Cabinet" planning dinners that will bring a diverse group of colleagues together for discussions leading up to the exhibition; brief discussion of relevant artists, projects, and places; pictures; excerpts from interviews; recipes, etc. Notes about the logistical challenge of transforming the research into an exhibition, public projects, collaborative public programs, related courses, and a book.

5) Occasional Guest Bloggers:

Short posts on related topics from artists, writers, Kitchen Cabinet participants, etc.

6) Comments:

A call out to  artists, curators, scholars, students, interlocutors, critics, locavores, chefs, shopkeepers, salonistas, activists, everyday cooks, backyard gardeners, farmers' marketers, Chowhounders, LTHForumers, etc: please share your thoughts about the blog and the project. I'd love to hear from you if there are other artists, books, meals that I should know about, or if you have incisive critique or suggestions.

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This is an informal curatorial research blog for Feast: Radical Hospitality and Contemporary Art, an exhibition about the meal as a medium for contemporary artists. The exhibition opens at the University of Chicago’s Smart Museum of Art in February 2011. Many thanks to the Emily Hall Tremaine Foundation for supporting this exhibition, to my colleagues at the Smart for their critiques and collaboration, and to all of my friends and accomplices who have shared ideas.

Stephanie Smith
smart-feast [at] uchicago.edu


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