The Long Table is a dinner party structured by etiquette, where conversation is the only course. The project ingeniously combines theatricality and models for public engagement. It is at once a stylised appropriation and an open-ended, non-hierarchical format for participation. Both of these elements – theatrical craft and political commitment – are mutually supporting in this widely and internationally toured work. The (often-feminised) domestic realm here becomes a stage for public thought.
The components are simple: the long table; chairs; a paper tablecloth; pens with which to make comments, to draw, or to scribble ideas. The final, and necessary, component is an etiquette sheet. This list of rules for engagement lays the groundwork for talk that is structured in its participatory aspect without being limited in content or access. The rules, or perhaps helpful hints, include items like ‘There can be silence’, ‘There might be awkwardness’ and ‘There can always be laughter’. The Long Table acknowledges the sometimes uncomfortable side of both private exchange and public engagement, while celebrating the potential for new forms of knowledge-making and -sharing.
The Long Table is inspired by Marleen Gorris’s film Antonia’s Line, in which the protagonist continually extends her dinner table to accommodate a growing community of outsiders and eccentrics until, finally, the table must be moved out of doors. The Long Table, then, brings what might often be seen as ‘outside’ in – to a realm of conviviality – while showing how everyday, domestic things which might usually remain hidden can be brought out – into a realm of public ideas and discourse.