Thursday, May 12, 2005

Conceptual Art Dinner

A fat perk here is that chefs and chef-like friends of Flux Factory cook dinner for the writers. I am the only meat-eater of the three, so I’m not being served anything with fur or feathers (unless you count tofu), though we have been getting fish. So far the meals have been inventive and delicious. We leave clean plates. Last night artist Miwa Koizumi prepared a meal that was also a performance and a witty commentary on packaging and transformations. Miwa likes unexpected combinations and throwaway containers for elegant contents. We had newspaper placemats. Our menus were written on paper towels that also served as napkins, and our four courses were presented in milk cartons, juice containers, plastic bottles, and jelly glasses. Normally solid foods were liquefied in surprising (and appealing) combinations. A corpse of white fish rested on a bed of ramps—a wild leek with small onion-like bulbs and green shoots that taste like scallions—under a blanket of béchamel sauce, all snugged into a milk-carton coffin.

Dan, one of the Fluxies, is writing a dissertation on the Federalist period in American history and is interested in the ways people respond to and assert authority. I cut a grapefruit for breakfast, slicing off the rind and pith and plucking out the seeds. (The day before, Sarah, another Fluxie, watched and said, “That’s so Food Channel.”) Dan ate Quaker Oats, as we talked about the authority of the project rules. I said I was pleased that some were working for me, although among them was not signing in and out on cards to keep track of the time we spent out of our houses. I’m complying out of respect for the plan, but the rule feels nagging and suggests that self-regulation is an anemic impulse. It is, Dan said, for some people. “If I were doing this, I’d play solitaire in my house all day. I have a conflictual relationship with work.” So do I, though it’s not about putting my shoulder to the wheel. I worry the work is no good. What has so far been useful is having nothing to do but work, gorging on it. Distraction is still possible, but it’s limited, and the limits are, as the Flux Factory designers imagined they could be, bliss. I also like the rule the writers have established that no one can speak in our domain, including us, except during visiting hours. Most of the time it’s pin-drop quiet, and Fluxies generally sleep late, which means we can, too.

Though perhaps the experience was meant to be something of an ordeal-—sadism-wise or body-art-wise—-it doesn’t feel like a proper dungeon. To blow-dry my hair, I have to haul an orange extension cable from the kitchen into the bathroom, but that’s what the Fluxies would have to do if they cared about fluffing. I don’t myself when it’s just us and visitors aren’t coming. It’s like living in your pajamas for a month without the ice cream and the depression. For exercise so far I am running or walking around the perimeter of the roof, sometimes with an umbrella if it’s sunny, looking demented.


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