The Gallery Space: Tuesday July 23, 7-8pm, 2013
Having dinner with a friend’s family is a special moment. It’s when you gain valuable insight into the characters and rituals that shape your friend’s world view. It’s the moment when, if you’re presence is warmly accepted, you may be told the stories behind treasured family possessions – a fur coat becomes a beacon of hope and the presence of a deceased family member is signalled through a candlestick.
Shabbat Dinner is a moment of intimacy shared with an audience. The audience enters a gallery space at the Bondi Pavilion,where two rows of chairs surround a lovingly set dinner table. Over a three course meal, food is shared, family history is explored and ritual demonstrated. Hebrew and musical accompaniment are sprinkled throughout, providing a sense of levity.
Family history is recited and customs explained by five roving versions of a single narrator, including writer and performer Jessica Bellamy. While at times the names of relatives and important figures from the Torah run together and can be difficult to follow, this feels exactly like the experience of learning about members of a family absent from the dinner table. The lines between family and religion blur, yet a rich tapestry is woven.
Observing a group of strangers eating at a dinner table can feel oddly voyeuristic- like the stranger outside the dining room window rather than the guest. By the time desert is served and the gallery doors open, you feel like you’ve been accepted into the inner circle of someone’s most intimate life.
Images courtesy of the artist.