OPEN is a place to sit down and have a basic meal for a reasonable price but as it exists at the intersection of performance and everyday life, it turns an ordinary business proposition into a social sculpture.
OPEN makes available all the physical elements and activities of an ordinary restaurant for artists along with cooks, servers, farmers, activists, community members and educators to develop creative projects that extend the vernacular of food to social, political, economical and environmental issues thus making visible the web of relationships that are brought together in and around a plate of food.
OPEN, as a creative gathering of people and ideas, offers a stage on which to discuss, formulate and play out the issues involved in feeding ourselves and cultivating our communities.
OPEN will take specific forms, some much simpler, according to venues and participation.
Following is a full description of the project as originally conceived and it gives a general view of the main concepts.
A social sculpture
A unique community based around food, sustainable agriculture and the political issues associated with it has grown strong roots in the Bay area. OPEN, as a creative gathering of people and ideas, seeks to offer a stage on which to discuss, formulate and play out the issues involved in feeding ourselves and cultivating our communities.
If “We are what we eat” and we eat what we cook, everyone’s participation is necessary in an ongoing dialog about what ends up on our plate.
A built environment
OPEN will be housed in a large, industrial warehouse space approximately 5000/7000 sqft. located in the Mission district of San Francisco, for its active restaurant and art scene, its diverse communities and crowded sidewalks.
The Mission exemplifies what a living city looks like.
Built in recess within the space as to appear as a sculpture within a room, OPEN will include all the elements of a functioning restaurant: large bar with tables and chairs, a dining area with mostly communal tables, kitchen, walk-in and storage area, dishwasher, waiter station, employee lounge, office….. plus a composting and biofuel conversion station.
All theses elements will be redistributed and free-standing to make transparent their function and desegragate their location; one will be able to walk freely around them and some might have dual use, a dining table could double as prep table, the side of a see through walk-in serves as a lunch counter.
The addition of tiered seats will frame the space as a theater where one can see a pig being butchered, cases of beets being delivered, glasses being washed, how much wine is being consumed and how much ingredients cost.
The solid infrastructure, tables, chairs, bleachers, bar, walk-in… will be built in pine wood and in simple style to give a sense of unity. The hardware, stove, dishwashers, basic cooking equipment will be rented.
An ephemeral organism
It will be operated following the model and requirements of a full-service catering event and require an event planner
for general logistics, permits and rentals. For 4 days, possibly 24hrs a day, at least a simple meal will be available: an appetizer, an entrée, dessert or cheese plate, a beverage plus wine and beer, with appropriate fares for morning and late night. The restaurant proper will accommodate around 60 people plus seating available in the bar area and tiered section. Approximately half of the dinning room will be available for reservations, the rest including bar and tiered area will be first come, first serve. All food will be reasonably priced.
Sam White will be in charge of the floor: waiters, bussers, bar including wine and beer service.
Jerome Waag will run the kitchen: produce ordering, writing the menu or coordinating with other chefs and cooks Some of the task will be open to public participation, same for floor jobs and dish washing.
A time line will be established to distribute the different tasks as well as the events.
Kitchen and floor staff will work on a volunteer basis with such benefits as free meals and beverages.
A performance space
All the physical elements and the activities of the restaurant will be available for artists working with cooks, servers, farmers, activists, community members and educators as a basis for developing creative projects with a focus on works that extend the vernacular of food to social, political, economical and environmental issues (see operator’s manual). Whether solo projects or collaborations these different activities will contribute to the formulation of the restaurant and can take the form of installations, designs, on-going interactions, performances, interventions….
In other words the restaurant experience as a whole, its life, becomes the medium for artistic expression.
OPEN could include off-site locations as well as being a window for on-going projects relating to food.
A core of committed people form a collective to start reaching out in the art and food communities and put in motion a selection process, each selected participant becoming part of the collective plus all committed volunteers and builders. A website will be set up as a point of convergence with all necessary information.
A movie set
Everyone present will be encouraged to record the event using cell phones, video and digital cameras or sound equipment as well as non-digital media. All this material will be collected through the website and turned into a movie.
Documentation and artifacts from the restaurant will be collected into a show at a later date.
After the restaurant is dismantled and all the elements have been removed, the floor with all its foot paths will be photographed and documented as a social painting.
Sam White is a street artist living in Oakland and works as a host and bartender at Chez Panisse restaurant in Berkeley CA.
Jerome Waag is a performance artist living in San Francisco and works as a chef at Chez Panisse restaurant in Berkeley CA.