Silence Meal, Zagreus Project, Berlin, 2015 (detail) View full image

Silence Meal

NIna Backman

When we silence our words, something potent rises that has no chance of getting to the surface otherwise. When we do it together around a shared meal, the experience is magnified and unexpected.

Jaanika Peerna, Artist

The Silence Meal is a performative dining experience hosted by the Finnish artist Nina Backman. The meal follows a specific frame and is officially opened when the artist sits down. Attending to the rituals of a meal in a way that is free of verbal distraction, the communality of silence brings with it an intensity unique to the occasion. Thus, in removing the ingredient of the spoken word, guests are left free to explore a myriad of sensory experiences that can be both physical, emotional, spiritual or cultural in nature. Created by Backman, the Silence Meal presents its guests with an opportunity to observe what emerges in place of unspoken interaction. Each meal, being a unique constellation, is documented in a variety of ways; film, photography and sound. The traces left by the different Silence Meals are weaved together to create an experiential collage.

The hallmarks of silence weave through Backman’s art. Silence is integral to the artistic process. Her work encompasses installation, performance and visual art. For Backman, silence brings together different but related elements within a conceptual frame, in turn creating new dialogues. These set out to invite critical reflection, to expose layers otherwise unnoticed, to challenge perceptions as yet outside our realm of experience.

First conceived as part of the Hiap Residency Programme in 2013, Silence Meals have taken place in Brussels, Berlin, Shanghai, Norway and Finland. Highly versatile, it is conceived to be equally impactful on stage in a gallery setting or in a private space.

The next Silence Meal will take place as a lunch on 4 November 2018 at the Berliner Festspiele, Berlin. It will be part of the festival's special programme on Melancholic Sunday.


Silence Meal, Flagey, 2018