In Silent Dinner, a group of hearing and Deaf performers set up a rudimentary kitchen and then prep, cook, serve and eat an elaborate meal together in shared silence, without communicating in their language of origin. (No speaking for the hearing performers, and no signing for the Deaf performers.)
Silent Dinner is inspired by American artist Lois Weaver’s well-known public discourse practice, The Long Table. The rules of engagement for a Long Table state that those sitting at the table can participate in the conversation in whatever way they wish, without limit or restriction to access or content. Using the table as a structure to orchestrate a conversation around, this long table combines community interaction with theatricality. As a form The Long Table, “acknowledges the uncomfortable side of both private exchange and public engagement, while celebrating the potential for new forms of knowledge-making and –sharing”, while the rules (or rather, the helpful hints as Weaver calls them) state that there can be silence.
In Silent Dinner, silence is transformed from a potential born of discomfort or newness, and transformed into the landscape in which indirect communication between people who don’t share the same language is negotiated. The dinner table becomes a meeting place for the intersection of culture and language (hearing and Deaf culture, English and BSL, performance as language) via a performance score employing the everyday activity of sharing a meal. Over the course of the 8-hours of the performance the performers experience, and the audience witnesses, the many varied and complex layers of communication, compromise, and decision-making that are being performed through construction and deconstruction, art and food, theatre and everyday ritual, the performance of the public and the private. The table functions as both motif (in theatre the table is a prop, in performance it is material) and metaphor for community and connection.
Shannon Cochrane’s performance work deconstructs the formal qualities of authorship and repertoire, and perception and repetition to critically investigate performance art as both an ephemeral and conceptual practice. Her work has been presented in festivals and galleries across Canada and internationally in 19 countries. She is the Director of FADO Performance Art Centre (Toronto, est. 1993) and is a founder, co-curator and organizer of the 7a*11d International Festival of Performance Art (Toronto, est. 1997).
Amanda Coogan’s practice concentrates on durational performance installation, and group performance made in collaboration. She has performed and exhibited her work extensively in Ireland (The Irish Museum of Modern Art, Hugh Lane Gallery) and internationally in Amsterdam (Van Gogh Museum), Barcelona (Galeria Safia), New York (PS1) and Paris (Centre Culturel Irlandais) and at The Venice Biennale and the Liverpool Biennial.
Presented by FADO Performance Art Centre
Progress Festival @ The Theatre Centre
February 7, 2015
Photo credit: Henry Chan
Performers: Mary Balint, Michelle Bourgeois, Shannon Cochrane, Amanda Coogan, Alexandrose Dayment, Anselmo DeSousa, Sage Lovell, Catherine MacKinnon, Keli Safia Maksud, Mikiki, Ahmed Muslimani, Laura Nanni, Christopher Welsh.