Hosting and hospitality at the Delfina Foundation
Delfina Entrecanales and Aaron Cezar, the director of her eponymous foundation, inaugurated its expanded premises in 2014 with a programme titled ‘The Politics of Food’: an indication of how central the act of eating is to the organization. Founded in 1988 as the Delfina Studio Trust and now the largest provider of artist residencies in London, the foundation has, from the outset, been interested in questions of conviviality and hospitality as a basis for creating communities from the diverse, polyglot groups of artists that it hosts. Closely tied to this are notions of home and of migration – as both lived experience as well as, often, the subject matter of work produced by Delfina residents.
Part of this home-away-from-home atmosphere is created by means of the regular ‘family lunches’ that take place at the foundation, where residents and invited guests sit down to share a meal, thoughts and conversation. The artists prepare the food and present their research; the guests – myself included, one rainy Friday a couple of weeks back – often question, occasionally provoke, hopefully stimulate and certainly feel humbled to be cooked for and waited on by the invariably engaging, articulate artistic company. It’s an interesting inversion of the conventional dynamic of post-opening gallery dinners, which, in the best instances, are the moment at which the artist can finally stop performing. As Cezar, in his role as master of ceremonies, pointed out: ‘family lunch’, for all its casual, conversational informality, is an exercise, for the artists, in public speaking (and sometimes thesis defence). This requires a particular, practiced exhibitionism. The table, here, functions not only as the site of offering and exchange, but also as a classroom – for both artists and guests.
Main image: A Delfina Foundation ‘family lunch’ on November 4, 2016, with food prepared by Shadi Habib Allah and presentations from resident artists Arwa Al Neami, Jungki Beak, Rasel Chowdhury, Alan Poma and Jasmijn Visser