Social Art Practice: The Napkin Ring Project

Social Art Practice: The Napkin Ring Project 

Begun as a means to bring intention to the table and to the work involved to make a meal, this project focuses on the function an art object can serve in the daily ritual.

Napkin rings as art, remind us to stop our work, sit in our seat and assess that which lays before us. In response to, Lunch at the shop, by Peter Miller, where he employees paper napkins, and moving past the common place setting, consider the napkin ring’s role. The space between creating a meal and consuming the meal, the ring stands to separate these two practices. Holding the continued conversation from one meal to the next, the napkin ring marks the beginning of what Peter Miller calls for as, “the time to relax, savor, and commune.”  

History implies that hygiene was the original reason for their invention. As a young mother with the endless laundry of cloth napkins, this is what spurred my use. As society embraced their use, materials expressed wealth. As a child, I held a silver ring. This, a perfectly contained object of art, symbolizing a life in British occupied Japan. Alternatively, contemporary table settings are presented in duplication. Sameness rules. As my family grows and art reigns in our home, our rings hold forth as a tool.  I humbly submit the idea that they are each activated objects, reminding us to be present. A ceremonial object within a society that is progressively loosing its connection to the ritual of interacting face to face.

Simplified, I paint on each copper ring as a resist. The exterior is etched into relief. The interior is etched with a secret, verbal message in response to the exterior painting. The copper holds the hand’s warm and gives texture to touch.  The table is unified in its color, and each place is identifies a separate person.

My proposal is three fold. 

First, to show the rings in a space that I have altered with a massive wall drawing made in response to a gallery space.  To set the stage for the dinner and an opening to inspect the idea.

Second  - The Curated Potluck. 

In anticipation of each meal, 12 participants would be given a serving bowl and a drink vessel to bring their contribution to the meal. Removing labeling and constructs, the food and drink would be equally presented, and placed family style on the table. The guest list would be curated.  The table would be long and set by the artist. The RSVP process would enable the invited to pick their napkin ring out online prior to attending. The interior message will be with held until arrival. The ring will be theirs to use that evening.

Beginning with a giving of thanks in honor of art and the future, and a reference to their choice of ring, the dinner would commence. Unfurling the idea, potentially each participant could submit a name to attend the next curated potluck.

Third, documenting through out the dinner process. I will take a series of participant portraits. Have already started to collect stories from the table, and to recognize the differential that this anchor creates in home life. Attendees will be encouraged to write a response, these will be published with the portraits taken.

Exploration in activating a dynamic interaction between groups, using systems that society has in place to continue the conversation by redefining the function an art object can serve in the daily ritual.

Thank you to the StorefrontLab of San Francisco, due to your request for submissions I flushed out the first formula for The Napkin Ring Project as a performance! #storefrontlab