No-To-Scale Studio_2017-dining-table-mexican-border-no-wall-The-Offbeats-Project-Togetherness-in-design


Who wants to eat alone?

Back in March 2017, Malaysian design office No-To-Scale Studio ironically suggested installing a 3145 meters-long dining table to replace the wall planned by US president Donald J. Trump along the US-Mexico border. A provocative proposal that would have used the very essence of tables - as points of convergence, discussion and creativity - to create a moment of togetherness without borders in the form of a Thanksgiving meal.

Constantly at the heart of political acts, ritualised happenings and creative exchanges, tables - and the meals that take place on their tops - are at the same time icebreaking facilitators and instigators of relationships. What follows is a brief overview of some eye-opening examples.



Author: Daniel Spoerri
Location: Domaine du Montcel, France
Date: 1983

Orchestrated by Swiss artist Daniel Spoerri - an active member of the French art movement Nouveau Réalisme - The Burial of a Trick-Picture (or The Luncheon Under the Grass) was an eat-art happening that took place on April 23rd, 1983 in the gardens of Domaine du Montcel, near Paris (France). The macabre - yet ironic - banquet brought together an eclectic crowd of 80 guests around one single table.

While diners were invited to taste a series of offal based dishes, a mechanical shovel dug a long trench in the ground, just about the size of the lunch table. With the main course over, guests were then invited to ceremoniously carry the table top - still full of the remains of the meal, including plates, bottles and cutlery - and drop it at the bottom of the trench. When the procession came to an end a thick layer of fresh soil was added to fill up the hole again.

The artwork remained under the ground for some 33 years, until it was exhumed by a group of archaeologists from the SDTP and the INRAP in 2010. The new performance was described by Daniel Spoerri himself as the “first excavations of modern art” and was documented by filmmaker Laurent Védrine in his film Le Déjeuner Sous l’Herbe. [p]



La Festa dei Vivi e dei Morti
Author: Global Tools
Location: Sambuca Val di Pesa (Tuscany, Italy)
Date: 1974

Founded in Florence in 1973, Global Tools was a short creative experiment that lasted only until 1975. Born as a “non-school” [h] “since no one has anything to teach to anyone else” [3], the project was thought as a “system of laboratories” that aimed at bringing “the creative faculties atrophied by our work-directed society” [4] back to life.

Composed by some of the greatest Italian creatives of the time - among whom were some of Cavart’s members [5] - the Global Tools group regularly met in Sambuca Val di Pesa (Tuscany, Italy) to reflect on the future of design. The basis of their discussions and assemblies were the tables of “an old house that, though abandoned, was fully equipped with fire, cables, tapes, recorders, rolls of film, chestnuts, delicatessen spreads, firewood, vegetables, pasta, beds, tables, plates and glasses, a few dogs chasing children, etc.” [6]



Author: Ivana Tomljenović-Meller
Bauhaus, Dessau (Germany)
Date: 1930

Graphic designer Ivana Tomljenović-Meller studied photography at the Bauhaus, under the guidance of Berlin-based photographer Walter Peterhans. Quickly embracing the approach of the "New Vision" movement - which was led by practitioners such as Alexander Rodchenko and László Moholy-Nagy - Tomljenović-Meller documented the ordinary life of the students who shared her life at the famous design school. Taken in 1930, this image captures a rarely seen aspect of the life at the Bauhaus in Dessau - the common meals eaten in the canteen of the school. [7]



Author: Jean Luc Vilmouth
Yamamoto Cho (Myagi province, Japan)
Date: 2011

“What do we do now?”, asked French artist Jean-Luc Vilmouth (1952 - 2015) when observing the chaos that followed the 2010 earthquake in Japan. Shot on March 11th 2011 - precisely one year after the catastrophe - his film Lunch Time is set in Yamamoto Cho, a town particularly affected by the tsunami and located in the Myagi province, only 50 kilometres away from the nuclear power station of Fukushima. The one hour film documents the unorthodox performance orchestrated by the artist - a lunch on the beach - during which each guest was asked to bring the very same dish he/she had cooked or eaten just before the tsunami. The film - both absurd and tragic - reflects on the power of food, togetherness, shared memories and common experiences. [8]



Author: David Hertz, Massimo Bottura and Ale Forbes
Location: Rio de Janeiro (Brazil)
Date: 2015

Embracing the ongoing social gastronomy movement that questions the global food system and proposes to fight poverty and social exclusion through food, the restaurant Refettorio Gastromotiva in Rio de Janeiro (Brazil) was founded in 2015 by chefs David Hertz and Massimo Bottura, together with journalist Ale Forbes. For its launch, the restaurant collaborated with designers Campana Brothers and Maneco Quinderé to realise an interior that features large rectangular canteen tables around which guests can enjoy communal meals. Condemning food waste, the concept rests upon the meaning of the word refettorio - which comes from the Latin term reficere (recuperate, restore). Goal of Refettorio Gastromotiva however is not only to save and reuse food, but most importantly to “restore people’s dignity”. In fact, working closely with local communities as well as internationally renowned chefs, artists and athletes, the project provides food for homeless people and runs educational workshops to encourage young culinary talents of the favelas of Rio.


[1] more information about the project and the excavations (2010 and 2016) here; [2] source; [4] “Conversazione fra Binazzi, Branzi, Celant, La Pietra, Mendini, Natalini, Raggi e Sottsass Jr.”, Casabella, 1975, p.19; [h] Catharine Rossi, “From East to West and Back Again: Utopianism in Italian Radical Design”, in Hippie Modernism – The Struggle for Utopia, Oct. 24 2015 – Feb. 28 2016, exhibition catalogue, Walker Art Center, Minneapolis, 2015, p. 65; [3] "Conversazione fra Binazzi, Branzi, Celant, La Pietra, Mendini, Natalini, Raggi e Sottsass Jr.”, Casabella, 1975, p.19; [6] “Al di fuori del design: Global Tools scuola di non-architettura”, Casabella, 1975, p. 17; [5] with members of Archizoom, Superstudio groups, the Zziggurats, as well as Andrea Branzi, Ugo la Pietra but also friends, volunteers and “people just curious”; [7] more information here; [8] visit the artist's website here;

COVER_Visual for a dining table concept by studio no-to-scale © studio no-to-scale; 1_Daniel Spoerri during the The Burial of a Trick-Picture, April 23rd 1983 © David Boeno / SDTP; 2_Seminario Global Tools 'La festa dei vivi e dei morti', Sambuca Val di Pesa (FI), 1-4 Novembre 1974 - source; 3_Still from Lunch Time, 2011/2014 Jean Luc Vilmouth, Production Corinne Castel avec la collaboration de Asami Nishimura, film HD, 51: 30 mn © Jean Luc Vilmouth; 4_Refettorio Gastromotiva © Angelo Dal Bó;

Published: 2 Nov. 2017


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