On April 12, the Smart Museum's student advisory committee hosted the Feast-inspired party I Eat You Eat. Over 500 University of Chicago students and prospective students dropped in to take part in the collaborative activities. In the aftermath of the event, students Mallika Dubey, Kirsten Gindler, John Harness, and Nicole Reyna convened a digital roundtable to reflect on the program's development and student life at the University.

John Harness:When we first started to plan a student program, we thought: "Feast. LET'S HAVE A LOT OF FOOD!" And thus "Cakefest" (as I hear it was colloquially known around campus) was born.

Nicole Reyna:We went through a bunch of different ideas about cultural food-related practices and thought about having several different ethnicities of food represented. We definitely had the let's have a lot of food idea down, it was just a matter of deciding what and how it would be served. We also thought about having a sit-down dinner, but decided against that based on logistics and the possibility of having to turn people away.

Mallika Dubey: There was significant discussion around the way people come together in groups to eat. Do people always sit around a table? Do we pass food from one person to another? And is food shared communally or do we tend to serve ourselves? We tossed around the idea of having people walk around to different stations for food, but we decided it would be best to serve guests some of the items, such as the falafel.

JH: I don't exactly remember where the idea to decorate the cakes as part of the event came from...

NR: The cakes came about mostly from discussing how people could become a part of the making of the food -- decorating being the most logistically sound way of incorporating this.

MD: The cake deserved its own station, because we chose to highlight the collaborative process in decorating and beautifying the cake. As it is, when you eat a slice of cake, you are to some degree aware that you are consuming part of the whole. In this way, it's nice to get a glimpse of the whole cake before you sit down to eat your share. Furthermore, the act of decorating a cake made it seem more like a work of art to guests. There is an interplay of senses -- in that people are drawn to it visually, or aesthetically, just as much as they are drawn to it by their taste buds.

NR: The cakes were slightly messy, but everyone loved it! The line for the first cutting of the cake seemed a little hectic but everything turned out well and we had plenty of people involved and excited. A lot of people were comforted by the fact that you needed little to no skill to be involved in the cake-decorating. Some people would just write their name, the name of their house, some flowers, or even just some random patterns.

MD: During our planning, we discussed how cakes are often placed on a pedestal at weddings, bridal showers, anniversaries, etc. People always want to eat a really beautiful cake!

JH: What was fun (and terrifying) about the evening was that we learned -- literally as we were opening the doors to let folks inside the Museum -- that the event had been advertised to all of the prospective college students who happened to be visiting campus that day. Suddenly our expected attendance had doubled.

Kirsten Gindler: Yet in the face of this unexpected development, the Smart did not turn students away; we welcomed them graciously and hospitably, altering the setup of the event to accommodate additional guests, which resulted in a completely enjoyable and successful event for both current and prospective students alike.

NR: I think the fact that prospective students were there was a plus -- it showed them that our school can be fun and cool and probably brought them into the Smart Museum for the first time. It was a little alarming when we realized just how many people we'd be having as the crowd started coming in, but we handled it well and no one (even in the crowd) seemed to feel that we were unprepared or under-resourced.

JH: Yeah, I think we handled it pretty well, mostly because we had arranged to have so much food available! It did mean that we had to change a few things on the fly -- like we scrapped the idea of passing around most of the food and instead just served it buffet style.

MD: I think the event went well for the most part. I think, however, there needed to be more conversation triggered around the food, the ritual of eating, and the actual Off-Off performance.

NR: I heard several people talking about how the Off-Off Campus didn't really happen. I tried to explain that it did, but it was a little "under the radar." It would've been nice to have had Off-Off been more central to the event, but people didn't seem to be too upset.

MD: I tried explaining at the entrance to people what they were going to experiencing, but I felt that most of the time people walked in and went straight to the buffet. While they knew we were celebrating food and the act of coming together to eat, I'm not sure there was too much discussion around it. In this way, I think the cake decorating was more successful, because people were involved in decorating a part of the cake before they ate their own slice.

KG: The event reminded me that hospitality, one of the main themes discussed in Feast is one of the enduring roles of the Smart Museum in the greater University of Chicago community. I work as a barista in the café and the day after the "I Eat You Eat" event, as I served more prospective students and their parents who stopped by for snacks, I realized that the Smart really does play a unique and perhaps unsung role in welcoming people to the University. I remember my prospie visit, where I attended the museum tour with my father. We admired the collection, enjoyed espresso at the café, and he smiled and said, "Kirsten, this place is great, maybe you will work here someday!"

NR: Especially with the opening of the Logan Center, I'm hearing the campus in general start to talk about art more. People get really excited when the Feast exhibition comes up in conversation, mostly because it's so conceptual and far from a traditional fine-art exhibition. The publicity and attendance of this event was a prime example of how students not often involved in the arts on campus can come in and experience what the Smart has to offer.




About this Entry

This page contains a single entry by Julia Wetherell published on April 26, 2012 1:18 PM.

"An Intimate Situation" was the previous entry in this blog.

Planning the Identical Lunch is the next entry in this blog.

Find recent content on the main index or look in the archives to find all content.

Blog Description

This is an informal curatorial research blog for Feast: Radical Hospitality in 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 2012.