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  Richard Layzell – Art Work / Work Art

Day One
Friday August 15th 2003
The Artists’ Dinner
at the Banken restaurant, Lillehammer

 
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As one of the artists in Steder/Places myself I wanted to enjoy the meal, but also decided this was too obvious an opportunity to miss. This group of 200 or so people had been an audience for my Architecture of Belief performance / lecture at the conference the day before, so there was already a relationship established. One that would not be there at the Park Cafe on subsequent days.

The evening started at 19.00. On arrival we wandered around the grand hall of tightly packed long tables and were then ushered out while the food was brought in. I resisted the urge to become involved in these arrangements and joined a table to eat and talk with Norwegian artists. The transition came as the dessert was arriving. The visual change was created by my wearing a starched white apron and a blue tartan waistcoat. This was a buffet meal and there was a lot of milling about. People were going back for seconds and thirds. The coffee arrived but there was no hot water for tea. The staff were a little too busy. Without announcing my role to the staff I started to join in and asked them, with some authority, for the hot water for tea, then began to go around the long tables talking to the people who I now saw as my ‘customers’.

How could I operate successfully here, in this party atmosphere? I was English surrounded by mainly Norwegians. I had thought that the use of English from an Englishman could be effective. So I asked people, in very clear English, if they had enjoyed their meal, gradually adopting the role of something like ‘maitre de’ or host. The clear English seemed to be a slight challenge to people, many of whom recognised me and realised I had switched to some kind of performance, and we began to joke a little. This was comfortable, and perhaps a little easy for me. So I also began to ask if there was anything they needed, and brought them tea, coffee and dessert, sometimes. But also sitting down at their table and discussing the fine points of the meal , the casual and potentially dangerous table decoration, and the whole occasion.

My most difficult moment came when a guest insisted many times on me bringing him a large glass of white wine. In Norway this is no joke. Alcohol is priced like jewellery.

It was a pleasure to roam through these encounters and gradually build a rapport with the staff, who seemed to view me as one of them but not one of them. And this relationship was perhaps more important for me than the one with my customers.

I knew it would be different the next day in the Park Café, when people didn’t know me.

 

     
 
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