Breaking Bread: On Otherness
On 3rd May 2018, a gentle sun was shining over Lancaster as a group of around 30 people gathered to share the kind of lunch most of us would only ever indulge while on holiday. For all intents and purposes though, it was a working lunch. Together with Lancaster Arts, Two Destination Language and Leo Burtin held Breaking Bread: On Otherness. The event featured an 8-course meal, during which four other artists intervened in different ways.
In the months preceding the event, Kat and Alister (of Two Destination Language) undertook a series of conversations with artists whose practices deal with identity, difference and otherness in various ways. These conversations served as the catalyst for the development of the menu for the event, and the creation of a format, which enabled guests to have conversations on identity, otherness and belonging which embraced dealing in the grey areas and the complex intersections of privilege and oppression which make up our identities.
As each course was served, Kat, Alister, Leo and guest artists Kate Marsh, Sheila Ghelani, Pauline Mayers and Lena Simic offered thoughtful and personal “interventions” or “provocations”. Rajni Shah even teleported her voice from within Alister Lownie to make a surprise mystery appearance, which no one knew anything about until it happened. I am using the above words of “intervention” and “provocation” with caution, as they do little justice to their creators and suggest a kind of hierarchy, which was not there. Instead, Breaking Bread: On Otherness could be thought of as being a series of invitations, which fuelled a collaborative process of working through complex questions together.
When you look at me, what can you see?
Is the weight of my history visible?
What lies beneath appearances?
How do we take care of ourselves and of each other when our surroundings make our differences into barriers?
On reflection, as we were creating Breaking Bread: On Otherness, we might have been looking for something that would have the rigour of academia, the boldness of performance and the light-hearted spirit of a spring barbecue. We did not know what would happen, but we trusted each other, we trusted our guests and we trusted the framework we had created to hold the event.
It is too early to say what the impact of the event might be. We know that both Two Destination Language and Leo Burtin are in the process of devising performances, which will no doubt be richer thanks to this. What we can now say with some certainty is that if we are going to attempt to rethink or redefine our relationships with identity, otherness and belonging in any meaningful way, then we need new and more adequate tools. We need to do away with giving space to the loudest, the most obvious or the most divisive. Instead, we propose to take our time, to put in the effort, to deal in shades and in layers.
We may not have come up with any answers (yet), but we are surely getting closer to asking the right questions.
Date Posted: 23 May 2018