The Silence Meal
The Silence Meal is a performative dining experience hosted by the Finnish artist Nina Backman. The performance invites the diner to allow a series of impressions related to senses and silence. The meal follows a specific order 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 allows for 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. Through being in the company of one’s own voice, the Silence Meal presents its guests with an opportunity to observe what emerges in place of spoken interaction. Each meal, being a unique constellation, is documented in a variety of ways, including through film, photography and sound. Furthermore, by weaving together the traces left by the different Silence Meals, an experiential collage is coming into being.
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
Silence Meal is like a social laboratory experiment where the participants’ senses are tested together and separately.
Kari Korkman, CEO Helsinki Design Week
Without the hedges of speech, a strange garden of human emotion sprang forth: Clouds of embarrassment and anxiety passed over diner’s faces and boredom bloomed into hilarity. We distracted ourselves with nonverbal toasts, clinking wine glasses just for the joy of the ringing resonance—useful sound since the silent meal was recorded as “new music.
MICHELLE MERCER, Downbeat