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  Richard Layzell – Art Work / Work Art

Day Five
Tuesday 19th August 2003
Park Cafeen, Kunstmuseum cafe, Kino cafe,
One Hand Clapping espresso bar, Cafe Opus, Cafe Banken

 
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Raining outside at the Park Cafeen
Raining outside at the Park Cafeen

Raining inside at the Park Cafeen
Raining inside at the Park Cafeen

Nurses re-united
Nurses re-united after 50 years
outside the Kulturmuseum cafe


No staff no customers
No staff no customers at the
Kino cafe

 

This morning the grey cloud cover did not lift over the mountains, it darkened. Rain was falling steadily by 11.00. When I arrived at the Park Cafeen, Erik and Elizabeth, the owners, had already made their decision. The cafe wouldn’t open today. This was in part because when it rains here you experience it inside and out. The local council, who owns this historic gem of a building, refuse to fix the roof. There were already two buckets in place when I went inside. Outside, the birds had taken over the space around the tables. Wagtails and jackdaws were darting around in the rain looking for scraps of food that had escaped me the evening before.

So, what does a park cafe waiter do when his cafe is closed? He becomes freelance. Thankfully, yesterday had given me a greater sense of scale. I would circulate the cafes of Lillehammer, sometimes offering my assistance, sometimes observing their methods.

The obvious place to start was the formal meeting point of coffee house society and high art, the cafe at the Kunstmuseum, Lillehammer’s contemporary art museum, where one of the other artists from the project was installing her work. I was given an introduction to the cafe owner by Janneke, one of the curators. I wondered what was actually being conveyed in Norwegian and winced slightly when I recognised a norwegian version of the term performance art. How would this lady with a bakery background grasp this? She asked me to come back soon and stay for no longer than an hour.

On the way in I came across an excited and interesting group of ladies on the paving outside the cafe, all virtually the same age. I greeted them warmly, especially as I now saw potential in every snippet of eye contact. There had been a large article covering my work in the local daily paper Gudbarnsdolen Dagingen (dg for short) including a photo (where I looked unnervingly like my father) and my diary from Day 1, promising to include the other diaries on subsequent days. I presented the newspaper article to large group of grey-haired ladies with some pride. They told me about their very special reunion. They trained together as nurses in Lillehammer exactly 50 years ago. I took photos for them and for me.

The warmth and excitement of our exchange – they were reluctant to let me go – was not replicated as I entered the cafe. Preparing to start work immediately, I was greeted curtly with: “We don’t need you”. How was I to take this? Perhaps I was too much for her. But I was hungry and she couldn’t refuse to serve me. Just at this moment Inghild Karlsen walked in, with her Danish husband. She is the artist installing at the museum and I had served them both a couple of times at the Park Cafeen. We were joined by their assistant and another curator for a disappointing and meagre lunch. But I fully appreciated the opportunity to talk to the artists and later have a look at their exciting work in progress. I felt as if I was off duty and being treated as a fellow artist. Was this confusing when dressed as a waiter? And how did it feel to cross another symbolic line, from cafe to culture house?

The Kino (cinema) is next to the Kunstmuseum. I could see clear evidence of cafe-style tables inside. I went downstairs to find a large room with more tables and chairs, even a bar. It was completely empty of staff and customers. I spent some time arranging the chairs and checking the tables, enjoying the freedom and satisfaction of offering my service conceptually.

I then began a tour of the main pedestrianised shopping street. I was clearly recognised by a man sitting outside a promising coffee bar, the One Hand Clapping Espresso Bar. He smiled, said he had read about me in the paper, spoke to me in English, said he was keen for me to meet a friend of his who was on his way to the cafe, Tom, who taught at the film school. So what was happening now? I was recognised in the street both as a waiter and as an artist. There’s something about newspaper coverage that engenders respect beyond any art publicity material. I was a minor celebrity who offered service.

When Tom arrived, he offered me a cappuccino, and I sat with him and Morten, the first man, who was an actor and playwright. I encouraged them to speak in Norwegian because Tom was about to catch a train. This gave me an opportunity to assess the cafe. There was a sign near the sugar counter which translated as “sugar and gossip makes tea sweet”. There were books on a shelf. The coffee was good. The atmosphere easy. I could see myself fitting in here. One thing jarred, however. Maybe it was the uncomfortable Ikea stools that made me aware of the many wooden surfaces which weren’t exactly in harmony, as if wood as a material can be fake (the floor), varnished (the tables), a different varnish (the stools) and all will fall naturally into place. I was missing the period eccentricities of the Park Cafeen.

From here I went to the seemingly smart Cafe Opus and sat at a table reading the menu. Again I had plenty of time for contemplation as no-one came to take my order. The decor was a little flashy and I wondered if this was part of a chain of similar cafes. I was shocked to see that objects on the nearby shelves had actually been crudely glued down. I couldn’t imagine anyone in Lillehammer stealing these unimpressive kitchen items. It was some time before I realised that I was not going to be served. It was a cafeteria. But why put menus on the tables? I left.

I continued back along the shopping street and, at a junction, found myself suddenly in eye contact with a fellow waiter. We looked suspiciously and knowingly at each others’ aprons. His was black and greasy, mine still pristine and white. "Where you work?" he asked me. "You chef?" The hierarchy of catering was being revealed. I asked him where he worked. This was Zake from Turkey. He worked at Overlie’s Kiosk.

I was heading for the Cafe Banken but arrived first at the Park. The rain had by now stopped and I spent some time adjusting damp tables and chairs and picking up rubbish, again enjoying the absence and subtle presence. This was service as an art form.

I was confident of a warm reception at the Cafe Banken because we had the artists’ party there the previous Friday. On meeting Bente, the joint owner with her German husband Fred, I discovered that that last week’s banquet had been organised by the previous owners, a local hotel, where drinks were priced like jewels, whereas when we came down here to the bar/cafe later in the evening the drinks were much more reasonable. She welcomed me warmly and although there were few customers at first, appreciated the assistance and the concept. I heard her mention "this nice artist guy helping out" a few times on the phone to English-speaking friends. And that was good enough for me. I was relishing getting stuck back into service beyond the conceptual.

Then a rather wonderful process started to unfold. Morten came in and I served him food and wine. I was delighted to see him and spend more time with him. Then a lady who I’d seen, and possibly served, at the Park Cafeen. We sat and talked. Then Elizabeth, joint owner of the Park Cafeen, came in with a friend. Then Inghild Karlsen and her Danish husband popped in to eat something before driving to Oslo. I was recognised and integrated. I was here and there. I was serving Lillehammer. The artwork had taken on a new social dimension.

 

     
 
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