Monday 18 January 2010

18 February 2010, Gaby's Deli

Jewish Eaterie
30 Charing Cross Road,

11.00 am


Chris McCormack, Damian Swarbrick and Rachel Moore

The meal of long standing London institutions

Chris who works at Artmonthly brought the following articles/reviews/features

- Five Artists from Israel, Pomeroy Purdy Gallery London, exhibition review, Monica Bohm-Duchen, Dec-Jan 1990/91, Artmonthly
- Here There and Elsewhere, Recent exhibitions of ‘Middle eastern’ art rely on very old generalisations argues Pryle Behrman, Jul-Aug 2006, Artmonthly
- Letter from Palestine, exhibition review, Sally O’reilly, 11.06, Artmonthly
- Wall of Silence, Anna Dezeuze on art and the climate of censorship that bedevils relations between the US, Israel and the Palestinians, 6.07, Artmonthly
-Symposium, Infrastructure and Ideas: Contemporary Art in the Middle East, Larne Abse Gogarty, 3.09, Artmonthly
-GAZA, Francis Frascina revisits Lament of the Images, 4.09, Artmonthly

Every meal is so different. This meal, for some reason, made us aware of how varied the dynamics are in every meal. It all depends on who we know, or don’t know, who turns up, how many people there are and where we are. Also, how the conversation flows, as we never know where the conversation might lead. We usually try to steer the conversation in the direction of the topics we are interested in and how they might relate to the people who are there. In this meal neither of us knew Rachel Moore, and it is always great meeting a new person through the meals. It is harder in a way to have a ‘falafel road’ conversation with people we know than with new people.

Rachel is involved in a project with the Serpentine gallery in Edgware Road and told us that she was interested to come to this meal since like herself, we are also mapping and abstracting the city through one thing, in our case – falafel, in her case – screens. Rachel has been collating data around the Edgware road and Church Street area, on how many screens there are and what is shown on them, this includes screens in restaurants, as well as CCTVs in supermarkets and other shops, as well as others. It was interesting to find another connection to our project with another artistic project which is not food, but rather a methodology in which a city is explored through the randomness and structure of one item. Screens and falafels.

Before we even started to eat we were worried about staying at Gaby’s since it is also Israeli owned like in Pita, Golders Green, and in Falafel King, Portobello road, (and of course not to mention Maoz, which we did not go to which publicly declares that they only use Israeli produces, as much as possible) there was Israeli music, some of the produce, like drink cans, had Hebrew writing on them and came from Israel and there were Israeli paraphernalia all around. This did not only clash with our support of the boycott on Israeli goods, as a peaceful mean of putting pressure on Israel and raising international public awareness, but also had a very oppressive and domineering Israeli atmosphere. It is like the occupation monster comes alive in London all over again. (You could read more about this in the blog entry about Pita and Falafel King). However in Gaby’s, established in 1965, there is no Israeli music, no Israeli goods or paraphernalia, the owners and close friends who came in did speak Hebrew, but the place had no ‘Israeli feel', i.e. Israeli nationalist pride and propaganda about it. In fact Gaby’s is a complete Diasphoric London institution, and to be more precise a West End one, next to theatre land, Trafalgar Square and Soho, with a local fa├žade and interior, as if globalisation never happened. The place had seen and heard, no doubt, many fashion trends, economical and cultural waves, not to mention personal interwoven stories. We ended up ordering food much later, almost an hour into the conversation. We ordered mainly falafel wraps and chilli potatoes. We had chilli potatoes in Mr Falafel last time, and it seems that now the two go together. The food was delicious.

Chris came very much prepared to our delight with a number of articles about Palestine, Israel, and art, that he gathered from an indexical title search he did in Artmonthly, where he works. (Like Gabys, Artmonthly is long established London institution that managed to resist a glossier look). Generally speaking, the Middle East and the region of Palestine/Israel has penetrated the conciseness of the contemporary art world in recent years, through events such as September 11th and the attacks on Gaze 2009, and the war in Lebanon in 2006. The relative proliferation of shows and reviews created a new set of discourses, not in existence previously. In many cases art works from, or about the region, either refers to the political situation, or the means of production effected by it. So when Sally O’Rielly in Letter from Palestine, exhibition review, 11.06, Artmonthly, talking about the works and their production in the show ‘As if by Magic’, she makes valuable and inevitable connections between the restricted mobility in the West Bank and compromised means of production, in relation to the show and the artworks themselves. We spoke about the differences, if any, of art made by Palestinian artists in the Diaspora and in Palestine and how in recent years Palestinian artists found original ways of dealing with the horrors of the occupation through strategies such as absurdity and humour. A good example of this is Khalil Rabah’s The Palestinian Museum of Natural History and Humankind.

When we asked our famous question – did Israel steel the falafel from the Palestinians, Rachel replied that, she does not really know, but it made her think back to her time in NY, at a Palestinian falafel place, where all the Israelis who worked, owned, or managed moving companies would gather. She commentated on how they were all macho, the Palestinians and Israeli men. Macho falafel.

1 comment:

  1. With Chris McCormack, editorial assistant at Artmonthly, to talk about the magazine in relation to art in the Middle East