For the Dinner Party, I wanted to create an environment in which people who made things could engage with each other and with the ideas of those who wrote, thought and talked about the political and social aspects of the act of making. I believe that there is a moral imperative for those who design or make objects and a responsibility to design and make objects which contribute positively to the world culturally, ecologically, politically and socially. I wanted to discuss the ethics of our practices with those not often included in a discussion of a practice of making.
I organized and hosted a dinner party at the Wattis Institute Bar which 22 designers, craftspeople, makers and artists from the California College of the Arts community attended. For the event, I made a series of 40 hand-thrown cups, each of which I gave an idea or concept to represent in the form of a quotation. I selected political theorists, activists, craftspeople, economists and philosophers whose ideas and words I applied to the cups using iron oxide decals.
As guests arrived, they were instructed to find their favorite cup and sit where it was set. By arranging the seating according to the cups instead of the people, I was able to orchestrate dialogues without having to actively direct conversations. After everyone had arrived and sat down to begin eating, I announced the two "rules" for the evening: I asked that everyone try to speak to at least one person they didn't already know, and I told them that they were speaking not only for themselves during dinner, but also for their cup. It was each individual's responsibility to speak for the idea their cup represented. Other than this instruction, I did not try to direct or control the conversations.
At the end of the night, when the first guests were getting ready to leave, I told everyone that their selected cup was theirs to keep, to take home and to live with. I hope that each time they use their cup in their own home that they take a moment to consider the idea it represents and the conversations that came up out of it.