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  Richard Layzell – Art Work / Work Art

Day Two
Saturday August 16th 2003
The Park Cafe (Park Cafeen)








I arrived for work a little late, at 11.20. We opened to the public at 11.30. I wore black trousers, a white shirt, a tie and a white apron. My hair was plastered down with gel. I should point out that the cafe is self-service, so regular customers would not expect any kind of waiter service, especially from a non-Norwegian speaker. The other workers’ uniforms were pretty casual, a black apron was provided but not always worn.

My first priority was to create two ‘art tables’, circular tables covered with a formal white cloth where anything could happen, except eating and drinking. One of these tables would be linked to a video camera and the image relayed to the large TV screen inside the cafe. So one ‘art table’ was inside, the other outside. I was very struck by the quality of this image projected onto the TV. With very little on the table, a plate and a glass, it looked slightly translucent, like a painting.

I spent some time introducing myself to Anna and Mari, the two women I’d be working with. I wanted them to be ‘in on it’ but also to have some surprises. I helped them unlock the main door, the old key was stuck. It seemed to be an original key, from 1933, when the cafe was built. By positioning my inside art table close to the TV screen this presented a problem for the location of the water carafes and glasses, a key feature of the cafe. So we negotiated a new position for them.

It’s a friendly informal place, which prides itself on a menu not offered anywhere else locally. All meals are freshly prepared on the premises. I heard it called ‘the best cafe in Lillehammer’ by several people. The inside and outside ambience, more tables outside than in, create that unique atmosphere only found in park cafes. But unlike most park cafes in Britain, here the menu is wide, alcohol is served, and it stays open late in the evenings, if people are around. The orignal architect is locally recognised and there are subtle historical details around inside, although it was probably built cheaply.

This is my context, my dialogue, my gallery, theatre, performance space, film set, installation space, for these five days.

Some musicians arrived at about 12, confused by the inside art table and what I was doing. They were playing at the cafe in the evening. I didn’t know about them, they didn’t know about me. This was exactly the kind of situation I was looking forward to. We negotiated and reached an understanding. I was part of the Park Cafe scene already.

One of the other artists from the project, Yussi from Finland, started working on the other side of the park. He was carving pieces of wood, chips flying. I went across and served him breakfast, spilling coffee on the way. I began to feel that the whole park was my territory, my patch. I could serve anyone anywhere.

A disabled elderly lady arrived on her motorised transport. I thought she might like to be served, and helped in some way. It began to rain. I suggested she drove up under the outside balcony, out of the rain. The closest table was my outside art table, which I started to clear for her, then decided she should break my rule and be served here on the white cloth.

Why not? She asked for a glass of white wine, not too dry, comfortable with her use of English. I served her with precision and care, showing her the bottle first. I didn’t want her to know I was ‘performing’, she might have felt awkward in some way. She gave me a tip. This was unexpected. I donated it to the tips glass at the counter.

Business was fairly slow. I had time to take things in. Spending time, and having a video camera in a still position, led to heightened perception. The carafes of water began to appear visually stunning, as well as the occasional details on the windows. I started to record some of these images and had thoughts of turning the experience into a video, a separate project.

It began to feel like a residency.

Then the ‘art tour’ arrived and it was chaos. I knew they were coming, but didn’t expect so many, there were maybe 50 people. They were going from artwork to artwork throughout the day. I expected them at about noon, but was told they wouldn’t have time for coffee. When i greeted and welcomed them to my cafe they were clearly ready for a sit-down and some coffee and water. They wanted to be served on the tables outside. We were unprepared for this. And I found myself shifting into the kind of role I’d had the night before at the Banken restaurant, more of an entertainer. I wasn’t completely comfortable with this, but also liked it.

I asked Anna for help. We were waiters, that’s what we were, taking orders, running around, getting frustrated with customers, the system was collapsing, time was running out. Why did they want cappuccinos and lattes?

This added to the confusion. How much did things cost? But we were getting there, past half-way with the orders, when they announced they had to go, they were running late. Orders were still coming. People were waiting for their change.

This was unacceptable. I threw my tray on the ground and had a loud tantrum. The situation was impossible. And highly dramatic. Wonderful. A furious waiter, a system in collapse. A pocketful of money. Dissatisfied customers. All of them ‘in the know’, many other customers wondering what was going on.

After they’d left, my concern was with Anna, my handfuls of money, and the system she was trying to support. We sat and counted change, trying to remember who had ordered what. It didn’t take so long. I insisted that more tips went in the jar.

Toward the end of my shift I was told by Mari that a young man sitting outside had asked for me to serve him. He had an espresso and a piece of chocolate cake. He beamed as I laid out his order, and told me he’d worked in the cafe for two years and it was such a treat to be served.


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