The Silent Dinners

Exhibition "Silent Dinners"

HONI RYAN, The Silent Dinners (exhibition view), project8 (2023)

The Silent Dinners (2006–23) is an international participatory performance project based around a three-course meal which was conceived and developed by Berlin and Paris based artist Honi Ryan. It has to date comprised 56 events in 20 cities across 12 countries—Australia, China, England, France, Germany, Lebanon, Mexico, Pakistan, Scotland, Spain, the UAE and the US.

The Silent Dinner guidelines have remained consistent across 16 years. Participants are asked to refrain from using words or voice, agree to neither read nor write, agree to make as little noise as possible, agree to avoid interacting with digital technologies, and finally, to commit to staying with the experience for at least 2 hours. Participation has ranged from 2–200 people at each performance.

Variously described as nomadic social practice, social sculpture and a mindful social performance, the Silent Dinners have summed to form an extraordinary intercultural study and celebration of dynamic real-space communication which transcends cultural differences while revealing innate similarities.

Vulnerabilities present at the beginning of each meal characteristically then give way to new forms of human-to-human connection and play. Importantly, its shared durational quality is central, facilitating a shared commitment to a collective journey.

Together with a new series of very special Silent Dinners hosted at Project8, an accompanying gallery exhibition will bookend 16 years of global Silent Dinner events through an exuberant constellation of original indexical paintings, photographs drawn from other Silent Dinner events from around the world, performance artefacts, intercultural anecdotal memories, audio recordings, sculptural elements, and various and materialised representations of data and inventory both collected elsewhere in time and space and accumulated on site.

Honi Ryan is an artist, writer, and educator with a nomadic social practice and currently adjunct faculty at the graduate school of Paris College of Art. Significantly, Ryan’s work was recently included in Creative Paths at Gaiás Museum Galicia, Spain alongside artists such as Francis Alÿs, Mona Hatoum and Marina Abromović. Working with long-term social performance as medium, Ryan creates and illuminates encounters between people and place in everyday life.

For this exhibition and performative event series at Project8, the Silent Dinners are presented as part of a new collaboration with Chinese born Australian ceramicist Jia Jia Chen, who has developed and tested her practice across a mutually informing engagement with art, design and food. Significantly, Chen’s clay bake dinners will feature as both performance elements and documentation in this exhibition.

Three performances of the Silent Dinners will be held at Project8, culminating in the 60th, held towards the end of the exhibition.

Curated by Cūrā8