Critics’ Picks

Ana Prvacki, The Greeting Committee, 2011–, performance view.

Ana Prvacki, The Greeting Committee, 2011–, performance view.


“Feast: Radical Hospitality in Art”

Smart Museum of Art, The University of Chicago
5550 South Greenwood Avenue
February 16–June 10, 2012

“Feast” greets its visitors with a photograph by Laura Letinsky: Untitled #8, Rome, 2009, which shows the aftermath of a sumptuous banquet: a lace table cloth, scattered ornate dishes, a stack of empty cockleshells so crisply in focus one can almost hear them clink. It’s a smart appetizer for an exhibition that considers the shared meal as medium, because viewers will find they are often early or late to the feast and must imaginatively reconstitute it through documented projections or aftermath. The show displays instructions for meals such as Filippo Marinetti’s 1932 Futurist Cookbook and Alison Knowles’s Identical Lunch, 1969, a Fluxus “score” for a tuna sandwich like the one she habitually ate at her local diner. Just as often, “Feast” showcases crusty remnants, including Rirkrit Tiravanija’s Pad Thai, 1990, which features a battered wok, unwashed since Tiravanija prepared the titular dish at Paula Allen Gallery in New York in 1990.

The exhibition invites viewers as if to a party: “Enjoy your time here, with this art and with each other,” exhorts the wall text. One is primed for communal enjoyment by Ana Prvacki’s The Greeting Committee, 2011–, a station just outside the show’s doors (a literal hors d’oeuvre) where staff offer a teaspoon of slatko, a sweet jelly with traditional symbolic meaning for Serbians, from humble mason jars arranged around a tarnished silver tray. The Greeting Committee disarms by communicating simply and directly through the sensory, delivering an experience of Prvacki’s Serbia in a sweet zing on the tongue. The conceit of the meal-as-medium swings between these poles of an immediate appeal to perceptual enjoyment and a heightened demand on the critical and imaginative faculties that must re-create the meal––in the future or the past.