This is a slightly belated update as we had our largest open space lunch yet and were preparing for the opening evening… instead of the usual blog update, here are the words I spoke to open the project!
Good evening everyone, thank you very much for coming this evening.
My name is Leo Burtin, and this evening in a sense serves as the launch for my project The Common Kitchen. It feels a little odd to be calling it my project for reasons which I hope will become very clear as the evening unfolds.
Let me begin by telling you a little bit about what is going to happen this evening.
I have a few thanks to make, and I’ll do that right at the start so I don’t get away with forgetting to do it!
Then I’ll tell you a little bit about my artistic practice more broadly and give you a sense of the programme of events that makes up the Common Kitchen.
By then you’ll have heard quite enough from me, and it’ll be time to share some nibbles and open up the conversation. There will be plenty of informal opportunities to ask questions and to browse through the recipe collection.
Now then, first of all, I’d like to thank Roy and Kath who run this space here and whose ‘can do’ attitude is one that I have rarely witnessed. You try approaching an art gallery asking whether you can spend a whole two weeks cooking during the hottest months of the year. Let me know how you get on. Roy, Kath, thank you so very much – the project would have been quite different without your support and partnership.
I’d also like to thank my team – I am the one speaking now and my name is the one on the programme, but I couldn’t do what I do without the stellar collaborators who enable my ideas to become a reality. Ewa Ratcliffe, Liz Duggan, Fanny Basanta, Rajni Shah, and Argenis Ramirez Gomez – thank you, once again this project could not be what it is without your support.
Last, but not least, I would like to express my gratitude to Arts Council England, who are providing financial support to this project and my artistic explorations more broadly.
My artistic background is firmly rooted in theatre. This is where I come from, and while the pieces I make may take various different forms, from performances to installations, they are always made through toying with the conventions of theatre.
Theatre is a gathering of people coming together to listen.
Theatre is a gathering of people coming together to watch.
Theatre does not exist without you. Before you enter the room, it is merely a rehearsal.
Theatre exists as we laugh, cry or hold our breaths at the same time.
In Ancient Societies – Ancient Rome and Greece at the very least, theatre was a religious festival, a political tool, a civic event. All were not only welcome but required to attend.
It looked quite different from the sitting quietly in a darkened room that is often associated with theatre today.
My work with theatre is about bringing people together and is about gently inviting voices other than my own into the mix. By the end of my piece, The Midnight Soup, the audience does most of the talking. In a more tongue in cheek fashion, in my show The Best of Both Worlds, audience members are paid to take on the roles of the performers.
My arrival to theatre was somewhat accidental.
To this day, my parents have set foot in a theatre only three times.
Each time, my name was on the bill.
Theatre is a space of possibility. It is a space ripe for the development of new ideas, for seeing things in a new way.
Theatre as it often exists today is also not for me, not for my parents.
We are the Common of The Common Kitchen.
I began working with food, or more accurately with recipes around 2012.
Together with Ludus Dance, just across the road, I developed a project asking artists to write recipes for how they make art. I asked them to swap them with each other, to make each other’s work. We then published these recipes and offered them out for people to take on, try out and perhaps make in their own homes.
Recipes, and food more broadly offers us a commonality that I have not quite found anywhere else.
In her introduction to her anthology ‘Between Feasts and Daily Meals’, archaeologist Susan Pollock describes the sharing of food as more than a physiological essential, but as a ‘social necessity’
With The Common Kitchen, I wish to investigate whether enacting this social necessity in a creative context, framed as an artwork can enable a different kind of conversation. I believe that the sharing of food beyond a domestic activity opens up a space of possibility for how we might invent new ways of living together, or as curator Nicholas Bourriaud puts it in a seminal publication on relational aesthetics how we might ‘model possible universes’.
As such, much like theatre, The Common Kitchen cannot exist without you, and I hope that you will be able to join us for some of the events we have prepared for you over the next two weeks and which you can find out more about in this flyer.
I’ll briefly tell you about them, and we’ll then move on to sharing some food.