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Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner: Hospitality as Artistic Practice
  • Mo Diener

  • Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner:
    Hospitality as Artistic Practice, 2013
  • Performance
  • 2013
  • Tableau vivant by Mo Diener and RR Marki Kollectiv in conjunction with "Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner: Hospitality as Artistic Practice"

    Mo Diener and RR Marki Kollectiv will present Tableaux Vivants as part of the Intervention Rroma Jam Session. If folkloric and ethnic background is celebrated and romanticized in our neoliberal European multicultural life, RR Marki Collective (founded June 2013 by Mo Diener and Mustafa Asan) aims to work with an antagonistic participatory methodology. With various performance strategies as well as media analysis, the collective aims to reveal Rroma lives as an unknown part of European societies. Photographs of the Tableaux Vivants with the participation of the audience will be taken and exhibited daily.

    Performance in 3 acts
    Act 1 – RR Marki Collective, composed of several artists of Rroma heritage and Mo Diener, dance in stereotypical fashion to Rroma music wearing stereotypical gypsy clothes.
    Act 2 – The RR Marki Collective members recount personal stories of their life as Rromas in their countries of origin or abroad.
    Act 3 – A member of the audience is invited to create a group portrait with the rest of the audience members along with the RR Marki Collective. Then a photograph of this group portrait is printed and displayed on the wall to commemorate that day’s performance. The photographer is asked to think about creating a portrait that somehow offers solutions to racism or is a representation of harmonious co-existence.

    “An act of hospitality can only be poetic.”[1]
    -Jacques Derrida

    Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner: Hospitality as Artistic Practice features interactive performances, installations, photography and videos that explore, question, and analyze the relationship and conflict between guest and host.

    The name of the exhibition refers to the title of the movie made in 1967 with Sydney Poitier, in which the tension between races, but also between guest and host, is thematized and exposed. Another important aspect that is addressed in the movie and in this exhibition alike is that of the unexpected visitor who brings along an element of surprise and risk.

    Hospitality is the art of entertaining and caring for guests, but the word derives from the Latin hospes, meaning ‘host’, ‘guest’, and also ‘stranger’. To the ancient Greeks, hospitality was a divine right that provided safe passage, shelter, food and drink to the traveler – the foreigner, the other. This interaction between guest and host was meant to bring the two on an equal footing, creating the possibility, regardless of the status of each in their respective societies, to engage as equals, to establish a bridge of sorts.

    In antiquity, the host was expected to ensure that the needs of his guests were addressed no matter how extreme. We have many terrifying examples from the Bible and Greek writings of the host sacrificing his family and personal property to protect his guests. It is exactly within this concept of hospitality that lies an inherent conflict. Absolute hospitality[2], where the guest is treated as a god regardless of the sacrifice, is at odds with the laws of hospitality, which place ethical limits on actions taken on behalf of the guest. In the latter example, both parties, guest and host, are expected to compromise for the benefit of an agreeable interaction. Modern conceptions of hospitality see the relationship between guest and host as a contract where the laws of hospitality take precedence over absolute hospitality.

    Within this modern approach, the host is expected to provide a comfortable and amiable atmosphere where the guest is not made to feel as though he is imposing, and his needs as guest are met. The guest, especially in the West, also has certain responsibilities and is expected to behave in the house of the host, the private sphere where the host is master. Imposing on the host is seen as breaking the laws of modern hospitality by which both the guest and the host are bound.

    This tradition leads to a power struggle between the guest and the host which manifests itself in various domains, even in the current debates about immigration, for example in the context of the current legislation in Bremgarten and other towns in Switzerland that prohibit refugees from entering various public spaces.

    In contemporary conceptions of hospitality, there is always a negotiation, a risk that both parties undertake, and a set of expectations on both sides. It is in this space that the tension and clash arise.

    The concept of Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner: Hospitality as Artistic Practice recognizes that hospitality is a strategy for bringing people together or creating relationships among strangers. However, it is also this conflict between guest and host, the native versus the foreigner, the self versus the other, in fact the two sides of the same coin, that becomes the subject of our inquiry.