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  Richard Layzell – Art Work / Work Art

Day Six
Wednesday 20th August 2003
Park Cafeen
Lillehammer

 
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Art table moves into 3D
Art table moves into 3D

Tai Chi
Tai Chi

The covered wagons
The covered wagons

Eating for the camera
Eating for the camera

 

My last day. Brighter weather. Arrived early for work. Decided that this was my last opportunity to take the table project further. I was hoping that, weather permitting, people would sit outside so I could then use the inside as my studio for the morning. Today I would be more artist than waiter. If that was possible.

I planned to expand the art-tables into three dimensions. I set up two round tables with white tablecloths adjoining each other. These were, in fact, starched bed sheets illegally borrowed from the Nansenskolen, where I was staying. Good for pristine whiteness but problematic for wrinkling. I was trying a number of objects under the cloths to bring the fabric up into three dimensions when three students from the local film school arrived, where Tom worked, whom I’d met the day before at One Hand Clapping. I was expecting them, but didn’t realise ’till later that this was their first assignment in the first week of school. This explained why their faces were blank when I mentioned Tom.

They had clearly been given some specific instructions e.g. give him a lapel mike / get him to talk about what he’s doing / get some action shots / remember you have to edit this / get some framing shots / get people’s reactions etc. As a sometime teacher myself I felt a little caught. I wanted to help them but needed to get on with my work and attend to my customers. It was complicated. And here I was placing objects under a tablecloth when they arrived, occupying space voluminously and wielding a large camera and tripod that were new to them. “Why you doing this?” “What is the meaning?” “Perhaps you’d like to sit over there in the corner with your equipment so that my customers aren’t too disturbed while you get your microphone ready.”

Interestingly it was my customers’ well being that took precedence at this point. The whole basis of my relationship with them seemed to be in jeopardy. I was a waiter and an artist. I may be doing strange things with a tablecloth inside the cafe but I was also serving them and dressed for the part. This was the fine balance that had always been there. This was where the whole experience became an act of performance. How could I extend this still further and incorporate three ungainly students who were interviewing and filming me as I worked?

Of course, there was the additional layer of my local celebrity and the greater knowledge of my aims. So it was not illogical that I’d be filmed. And perhaps, in a way, people might enjoy the possible link with the media. Cameras can be intriguing. But it was their body language I found so difficult. So we went outside. I talked to them and their camera as I meticulously wiped raindrops from the seats. This was a job to relish and I brought my own camera outside to film the repetitive actions. Each wooden chair strut subtly different from the last in colour, grain and texture. Every wiping a gesture in space with a white cloth. Every dry chair seat offering solace to a potential customer.

Then I thought of doing Tai Chi for the camera crew, for myself and for the customers. I’d considered this from the first day, but now was the opportunity. “What does it mean? Waiters not do Tai Chi.” “But this waiter does and it helps me get through the day. It gives me a framework for the poise I aim to use when I serve my customers. This is a park. That’s where people traditionally practice Tai Chi.”

As I left them a long procession of young mothers began to cross the Park diagonally. They all seemed to have similar covered buggies. Perhaps they’d all been to anti-natal classes together. I was reminded of the large group of former nurses of the same age I’d met the day before and wondered if men continue these friendships as easily as women do. I hoped they were heading for the café. They formed something like an image from a cowboy film, as their buggies formed a large protective fan shape at the outside tables farthest from the café, like covered wagons. I served them mainly coffee and chocolate cake. I loved them being here as their babies slept. This was a new dimension of the Park Cafeen community.

There was a new chef today, Rheinhardt from Austria. I’d heard a lot about him. He was the head chef, but we’d not met before. His very large black embroidered baseball cap revealed a warmth and sense of humour. We got along well. I decided to finish my shift, my last shift, with serving and eating a meal, for and with myself, recorded on my own video camera at one of the art-tables, still three dimensional and unoccupied. I ordered the meal that Anna, the first waitress I’d worked with, considered the best on the menu, a special burger. She was right, it was superb.

The video image was projected on the monitor above me, showing mainly the table. My head wasn’t in the frame. Eating for the camera was surprisingly ok. It was interesting. I became aware of my hands and began to choreograph small irrational gestures and movements across the tablecloth. I was seeing the meal and the table as a performance space, the food as a sensory adventure. In a sense, I was sharing what I wanted my customers to experience. Everything looked and felt a little brighter.

 

     
 
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