I shall give you the date in any place you are’
Cotton and white colour 150x45 take the form of al Buksha)
The Byksha was used as a travel bag in which the clothes were wrapped, and the women put their clothes in it when moving or travelling from one place to another; and besides the clothes, the Buksha included decorative tools such as, henna and kohl.
And I had chosen this cotton fabric and this white colour because this is what was used in the past to save valuable things and carry them when people were travelling from one place to another. It was also used to keep the dates protected from the birds to avoid them from destroying.
In my work, this means simply to transfer the date in any were( home or any place), and also it reflects the value of the date in a hospitality culture.
This work explores the concept of hospitality by looking at the reaction of the participants whom I attempted to engage in this meaning-focused experiment.
Reward, unlimited bounty, generosity and simplicity.
The material and method of this work were based on what fitted with displaying the simplicity of hospitality in the past which is summarised in the old Arabic phrase ‘Generosity from what there is’ which signifies that a person’s generosity is best offered if he provides what is in his home, whether a little or a lot, expensive or inexpensive.
The use of the cloth band (al-Buqsha) is an indication of the way in which valuables were kept safe in the past for anything which a Saudi person owns, and the way in which people carry them on their back when they move from one place to another reflects the value of dates and the ease of transporting them from one place to another. By sending this work to participants in several different places, I could easily effect the exchange.
The purpose of adding a drawing to the fabric was to raise the viewer’s expectation of what this piece contains and expresses, which I restricted to the date and the figures who carry the date. This tells the hospitality practices and the importance of the date by representing it and its uses as it is transferred from one place to another between people.
I used black ink and the yellow colour of saffron, which is traditionally used for making Arabic coffee served with dates as an expression of welcome and generosity.
This work experience was very interesting for me as I found it most closely related to my research and my exploration of the concept of hospitality which I want to develop and display in the Copeland Gallery. I shall therefore study the presentation method and the interconnectedness of the elements and their fit with each other with the drawings used to achieve the primary aim of this research, which is to create a new context of hospitality through the interaction of subscribers.
The first participant interaction (Huda).
After I had finished preparing this work, I sent the piece as a gift to some of my friends whom I consider partners in this experience. I asked them to record their impression of this piece in any way they preferred and then to send it back to me with a simple expression of the experience which they had had. They sent it back to me with more dates; this reminded me of how a Saudi family shares a dish of food.
The photographs posted by Huda were particularly interesting and raised many emotions; I think that her interaction reflected how she wanted to continue with a generosity of bounty when she added several dishes of dates, reflecting this sense of sharing. And I think that because we share the same background, culture and meaning of this practice, she embodied the spiritual and heartwarming feeling in the community within a shared experience, with a sense of the collective dynamic of this representative object, which confirmed the meaning of endless participation, generosity and continuity.
The video expressed a different sense by exploring what her family had inside this fabric. It has a sense of sparking conversation, sharing and preparation which usually revolves around the actual practice, and the background of sound (the Qur’an) made a lot of meaning and sense more vividly present in the work.
Huda said, “I just received a unique piece. It was full of giving and uniqueness. When I got it, I remembered how we were in Saudi, with continual surprises and gifts all year round and especially during Ramadan. The smell of cardamom filled the room and reminded me of our extended family feasts when we all meet regularly each month. It filled my day with well-being, happiness and philanthropy. And just as we used to do, I returned it full of our dates to share love and caring”.
Second participant interaction (Rana)
The photographs and video which Rana sent back reflected how the experience inside her had sparked her enthusiasm by filling her glass dish with another kind of dates which she keeps to serve to guests when they visit her home. As for me, I felt that she was giving, exchanging and sharing both her tenderness and her table with me.
Rana said, “The general form of the work reflects something important, rich and valuable. This is reflected in the way the cloth is tied. The tie was doubled in a tight knot. The smell of the work affected me and took me back to the general atmosphere during my family meetings or playtimes”.
The third experience was with some of the students from groups A, B, C and D in a silent crit event. I expect that it was interesting for them as the lockdown isolation included dates, and many of them tried to anticipate what was inside and to work out how they could interact with the work.
I had asked them to interact with my work in any way they liked because I was curious to see their spontaneous responses.
I think that the coffee pot with six cups and the sketches drawn on the wall helped them understand the theme of work and they discussed the work using many words connected with hospitality, generosity and social conversation.
The experience described by some of them was of tasting the coffee and the date in order to make sense of the work. However I still thought that something was missing and that made me think that to start people interacting with this work if I show it later, it has to push people to continue to receive the experience which aims to understand the meaning of generosity because I believe that you cannot understand the feeling of a thing until you live it. From another perspective, the practice of hospitality depends on accepting and enjoying mutual participation in a conversation which needs spaces which involve more than two people.
Or maybe I can show a short video which depicts quick snippets of this traditional culture of hospitality which can help the participants to react quickly.
I am thinking about the possibility of sharing my work with many small groups of three or four people, which could push the work’s dynamics to instil a sense of sociality, mutual generosity and cultural conversations in relation to hospitality. I am also thinking about how I can combine my drawing on the wall with this fabric, which works with the same theme without any sense of the difference between the materiality.
In ‘Untitled (Free)’ (1992) and his series of similar works, Tiravanija initiated ways of cooking for audiences by using cultural food to create social spaces to enable the public to be part of an art-making process which focuses on relational aesthetics. Tiravanija said that this work is based on the idea of food in an anthropological and archaeological way; the experiment did not focus on the artwork but on people and their interactions (MoMA, 2011). It is one type of data collection method which practising scholars commonly use in qualitative research and ethnography, including cultural anthropology, with the intention of gaining knowledge of a group of people through participation in a cultural environment.
This work inspired me to search for social relations through the cultural components which I have experienced. In my current artistic works, I have sought to create these social spaces through the essential elements of Saudi hospitality and to reach a new context through the interaction of participants in this culture while presenting it differently. Because of the isolation created by the Covid 19 lockdowns, I tried to apply this technique in another way by sending my work to people in their homes for them to create these spaces in their own surroundings so that I could observe the behaviour resulting from the experiment in the pictures and the video which I sent. I wanted to extend this experience by presenting it in social spaces where I could directly observe the participants’ interaction.
The ‘Untitled (Free)’ exhibition recreated at MoMA in 2012.
(photograph from MoMA)
70 X 7 THE MEAL ACT XXXIV, PHILADELPHIA, 2013
Lucy and Jorge Orta
In their ‘Meal Act’ series, Lucy and Jorge Orta linked food sustainability with participatory gatherings in outside spaces with a considerable number of people sitting at large tables which could accommodate a large number of guests. I think that clearly displays the artists’ aim in this experience by creating a social space and stimulating communication without focusing on any decision-making through the interaction from the participants, which is the opposite of my intention to create social spaces, including many small spaces between two-four people, which do stimulate a deeper conversation, a connection and an interaction with my work to be these interactions is a part of my research result.
The interesting thing for me in the Ortas’ work is not just the subject of sharing food, community gatherings and spontaneous public meetings, but the method which the artists used to present the work through all the details of shapes, words and colours on the food plates, and then giving these pieces as a home gift of art to each individual participant "At the end of the meal, each guest took home their porcelain plate contributing to a ripple effect of conversations from the table, to the civic space, to the private sphere, and back to the table" (Studio-Orta.com. 2013).
This reflects a vineyard, generosity and kindness, showing clearly how you give your best to strangers, and it represents the utmost degree of giving. I started to think about the way that I need to create interest in the details of drawing and narrative in a fabric piece installation to present this piece of art as a gift for participants (see Figure 8) which in my view reflects the aspect of tenderness and generosity. Because of the isolation created by the Covid 19 lockdowns, I tried to apply this experience in another way by sending my work to people in their homes for them to create these spaces in their own surroundings so that I could observe the behaviour resulting from the experiment in the pictures and the video which I sent. I wanted to extend this experience by presenting it in social spaces where I could directly observe the participants’ interaction.
The Taiwanese installation artist, Etopia
The Taiwanese installation artist Etopia created a unique experience by presenting five different dishes for the audience in a quiet atmosphere, stimulating all five senses and creating an ideal society formed by a social bond by inviting people to share in community participation and reflection and to exchange ideas in discussions, enjoy cultural collisions and fusion between the distinct ethnic, age and social groups of Taiwan.
Each dish in this work reflected a different meaning and concept of the cultural fusion which had occurred as a result of the experience of colonialism in Taiwan. I want to create an installation piece of fabric which incorporates several traditional cultural items, dates, Arabic coffee, saffron and cardamom, which represent the traditional Saudi culture of hospitality in new place in a social experiment designed for participants to enjoy, communicate and create a new context for the original culture by interacting with people who have no background in my culture.
The installation will stimulate the five senses in a way which incorporates the traditional hospitality of welcoming a guest with the smell of incense and coffee while paying attention to the general atmosphere of sitting together.
Eatopia, ‘A unique culinary experience’ (25 October 2016)
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