Notes on a Silent Meal II


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Last week I had the honour of partaking for the third time at a so-called Silence Meal, a performance by artist Nina Backman. This time the meal was part of the Jazzfest Berlin, in the main building of the Berliner Festspiele on November 4th, 2018 – and for the very first time not as a dinner, but as a lunch. On top, this Silence Meal was not on invitation only, like most of the earlier ones, but any curious and adventurous person could purchase a ticket for this meal.

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These meals are a core element in Backman’s ongoing artistic work called The Silence Project – including exhibitions, events, public lectures and artist talks. With these elements she works on »the traditional Finnish concept of ›freedom to roam‹ or ›everyman’s right‹ jokamiehenoikeus that allows free access to forests, waterways and the right to collect natural products, regardless of ownership of land.« To experience silence and to roam in silence is for her one crucial if not existential ›everyman’s right‹. Backman has been working on this project since 2013.

Again, like in 2016, I allowed myself during this meal to take some notes on what I could observe – in the behaviour of others as well as in my own drifting sensibility, in my inclinations and inhibitions in this situation of eating four courses with a larger number of other guests in radical and unfamiliar silence. The courses had been provided this time by Culinarium. And these are the 6 notes – in German as I wrote them (and below translated into English):

​Beim Servieren der Gänge und beim Einschenken der Getränke steht das Personal mehr im Mittelpunkt der gesamten Aufmerksamkeit aller Gäste als gewohnt: Die wohltrainierte Performance des Personals wird sehr sichtbar.

Die “Krugenden Krüge” (Karin Deckner)

Ab dem zweiten Gang, ab dem Hauptgang, beginnen die humorigen Spiele mit Gläsern, Besteck, Klängen. Das zweite oder dritte Glas Wein hilft.

Im Hauptgang versenkte ich mich unwillkürlich in einige Gedanken zu künftigen Vorhaben und vergangenen Begegnungen.

Der immer wieder neu begonnene Reigen des Anstoßens der Gläser.

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When serving the courses and pouring the drinks, the staff is more the focus of the overall attention of all guests than usual: the well-trained performance of the staff becomes very visible.

The “Mugging Jugs” (Karin Deckner)

From the second course onwards, from the main course onwards, the humorous games begin with glasses, cutlery and sounds. The second or third glass of wine helps.

During the main course I involuntarily immerse myself in some thoughts about future endeavours and past encounters.

The round dance of the glasses touching and sounding that started over and over again.

Continue reading: The first 11 Notes on a Silent Meal from 2016.