Photo Credit: Simon Mills
This project was a public performance that took place on various main streets in Belfast, Northern Ireland. I wanted to juxtapose the streets of Belfast, each replete with their own histories, politics, and stories, with a portable tea cart to be used for impromptu conversations between myself and members of the community. The tea cart provided everything necessary for me to act as hostess to the conversations. The conversations were initiated by an invitation to join the me for a cup of tea, and engaged any passerby who accepted the invitation.
The warmth and familiarity of the tea cart's (and my own) domestic imagery sets the tone for ensuing conversations. This small domestic space, in the context of the citys political/historical past, offers the example of building and maintaining community through the simple act of getting to know one another, finding similarities, and engaging in face to face communication. The domestic setting also puts on display the places in which political turmoil is felt most intimately, where family members involved in past violence have been cared for, mourned, and worried about. Our homes are personal havens, which reinforce and contain our values and passions. The kitchen is often catalyst for dinner conversations revolving around the days events, news, and politics, while simultaneously presenting the cultural identities of food linking us all together.
The conversations allowed me to become familiar with the city of Belfast on a more personal and intimate level, while also providing the individuals of Belfast an opportunity to present their stories and identities. Following each conversation, I documented the details of our exchange as a journal entry written onto the cloth napkin used for the tea setup. I committed to the napkin, and my memory, the names of those whom I had tea with, how they took their tea, and what I remembered of our conversation. The remaining cloth napkin journals act as a receptacle and document of the entire experience.