Thursday, November 06, 2014

moving (literally and metaphorically): a salon evening


on tuesday evening, i co-hosted a salon evening for the first time. it was in cooperation with our little local group of creatives - called creagive - and our local library, so it involved some of my favorite people. the theme was "moving" (at flytte (sig) in danish). we chose this theme because we recently had to move out of our local kulturhus so it can be renovated into a new library and creative space, so moving referred both to physically moving, but we also talked a lot about things which have moved us in a more metaphorical sense over the years.

how it went was that when people arrived, they got a little glass of fernet branca and a name tag with a symbol and a color on it. we had jazz playing and the locale was lit primarily with candle light and we had even burned a bit of lavender incense, in order to set the scene. the tables were set with various fun dips and snacks and a bowl of edamame. we wanted people to expand their horizons and move their boundaries a little bit, so we chose foods that they may not have tried (like edamame) and in combinations that they may not have tried - so dipping carrots in pesto and bread sticks in ajvar. the fernet branca was a bit too much of a leap for some and they immediately asked for a glass of wine instead. we allowed that and didn't push them.

on the tables, we had a little sticker that matched the different symbols we had chosen (a martini glass, a tree, a house and a heart), so that you went to the table that had your symbol in the first round. this way, people wouldn't just sit with the people they came with, but would mix and mingle a bit. 17 people came, so we had three groups of 4 and one group of 5. for the second round, we switched places and you had to go to the table that matched the color from your name tag. this way, we mixed things up a bit.

we had prepared some conversation-starting questions for each of the rounds - 5 for each and we gave a half an hour for each session. both times, we extended by 5-10 minutes, because people weren't done discussing. as we had pitched it as an art salon, we linked some of our discussion questions to art. the first round questions were: "which artist has moved you the most?" "which place did you most recently move from?" "how many times have you moved in your life?" "which country would you like to move to?" and "how old were you when you moved away from home?"

to warm everyone up for the questions, two of us told short stories related to moving. i told the story of the time i touched matisse's goldfish painting at the pushkin museum in moscow. there was, in those days (20 years ago!), no security and there was also no glass on the painting, so i touched the actual surface of the paint that matisse himself brushed to canvas. it was a defining moment for me in relation to art - and the first time i felt a personal relationship with an artwork. my co-host told a tale of moving rather spontaneously to paris to work and study painting in her youth. she found an art teacher through an ad and was ushered into a funny little apartment by a funny little man and ended up studying with him for a long time. our stories and our questions really opened everyone up and we had a lively discussion, people remembering their first apartments away from home or all of the places they had lived along the way. it was actually quite difficult to stop the discussion and take a break before the second round.

our second round started with a wonderful poem that at the base of it was about being human and fickle and never satisfied and ever searching for spirituality and love and companionship. the poet herself presented it and it set a fantastic stage for the second round where we had come up with some deeper questions: "what advice would you give to your 18-year-old self?" "what moves you most? travel? people? thoughts? work? experiences?" "what stops you from moving?" "what was the first artwork that meant something to you?" and we had a selection of different artworks, from danish artist kvium to picasso to malevich, which we asked, "does this work move you?" what was interesting was, at least with the groups i was with, the first round, which i had seen as easier, more superficial questions, was much livelier and people were more engaged and actually dug a bit deeper than it seemed with the second round. but it was also perhaps the group dynamic of the second round. it was also great, but it didn't feel as deep. that was interesting because we thought the second round questions were deeper and more philosophical.

we will be doing another salon in february. in celebration of 100 years of danish women having the vote, we have given it a wonder woman theme (i might have had something to do with that). we want to discuss the pressures on women today to be wonder woman - having the perfect career, children, home and life. are we all wonder woman? or should we be? and who expects it of us? what are our super powers? these questions and more will be discussed next time.

1 comment:

Everyday Things said...

OMGosh! I can't believe someone else has touched a famous painting! I touched leonardo da vinci's lady with ermine in an eastern european art gallery in the early 1960's! those were the days, there was no one in the room, no cameras or security, amazing really compared to these days!