Somewhere between artspace and church, 20-21 Visual Arts in Scunthorpe set the scene – and the table – for a roving and provocative discussion about public readings, performative eating, sermons and the rearrangement of sacred space.
Our performances were scheduled to interrupt a three-course dinner held in the converted church on the 24th February 2013. Some performers stood at the table like after-dinner speakers. Others took guests away to other rooms, to corners of the building to deliver a lecture or observe a vaulted ceiling.
There is a lot to digest.
We lay on the floor and toured the building through lost and local dialect. We watched a cookery demonstration, producing an endlessly inedible – inevitably inedible, to tune in to Patrick Coyle’s voice – cake made of silica, polystyrene lemons and fake snow. We were witness to a solemn, sonorous pacing. We stood for an illuminating lecture (lit, literally, with the strongest lights) and washed everything down with a thick soup of voices, a spectral debate.
And all the while, we toyed nervously with the napkins I produced.
The napkins were maps of the converted church. They were instructions for folding. They were detailed with possible sightlines for guests stood inside or outside the walls. They were instructions for looking. They were just napkins.
They were, of course, all of these things but the red sightlines drawn on the napkins caused some guests to wonder if they were perforations or foldmarks, instructing an impossible task that for some lasted the length of the dinner. Three guests, frustrated with the whole thing, came over to ask me to fold the napkin back into its original arrangement, which was a lovely and unanticipated turn in the evening. I designed and produced the napkins to accompany a three-part reading. Part 1 delivered the napkins with instructions, while Part 2 was a prose poem about sight, choroids and retroreflection. Part 3 was a poetic lecture guiding guests through the the concentric layers of ooidal ironstone the church is built from.
Each part folded in the language and images of the other courses and by coincidence echoed phrases and moments in the other performers’ work. Eggs, shells, pacing, ancient dialects, light, ghosts. And it was this accumulation of echoes that I relished: the matching frequencies, the conversations over dinner, this sedimentation of space.