70 x 7 The Meal, act XXXIV – Following Lucy + Jorge ORTA (English Version)

French version will be online tomorrow.

As I said in a previous post I had the chance to be a partner of this project : 70 x 7 The Meal, act XXXIV, by Lucy + Jorge Orta.

For a few days I followed the artists, I was Jorge’s interpretor, I was there during the meetings for the project and also during the related events : cocktail reception, panel conversation, the performance, etc.

This position is I think a privileged one, a team of personns have been working on this project for months and I had the opportunity to jump in just for the last turn and see it come to life. I could be listening in all the conversation, since I was asked to translate everything. You know when you want to be a fly on the wall to listen to some important conversations ? well that was a little how I felt.

Anyways, let’s talk about this amazging project.

First who are the artists : Lucy + Jorge ORTA ?

They have their studio in Paris, Jorge is from Argentina and Lucy is from England, their common language is French. Reminds me of when I talk about being international !

Lucy + Jorge Orta’s collaborative practice focuses on the social and ecological factors of environmental sustainability to realise major bodies of work employing drawing, sculpture, installation, object making, couture, painting and silkscreen printing, as well staging workshops, ephemeral interventions and performances.

This is how their work is presented on their website and I thought since they probably wrote that it would only be fair to put it here.

Being around them gave me a clear vision of their work and the way they see the world, also their opinions of daily life subjects which you don’t usually get from artists.

Capture d’écran 2013-10-13 à 22.07.05Antartica Village – source Antartica World Passport project, amazing project go check it out

They are really concerned about creation as artists so they created a place dedicated to them : Les Moulins.

Described as “A centre for artistic experimentation, research and production.”

It is a way to support fellow contemporary artists and to create and think as a community,

“Les Moulins aims to actively challenge and transform ingrained social, cultural, ecological and political constructs that surround us.”

The objectif here, instead of “Médiation Culturelle” is not to raise awareness among the audiences, (I am talking about Les Moulins) but to concentrate creativity with artists in residency and to gather them around those common goals. It reminds me of past movements in Art History when artists would come together around the same idea or cause and write a manifesto.

Today many artists are trying to get discover, you don’t have to be a Critic or a Art History Aficionado to realize that. So sometimes I see it as a very competitive, lonely world, I think artists need those types of places managed by other artists for their creation. Don’t get me wrong “Mediation Culturelle” is my objectif, my need but in order to have an interesting good Médiation we need interesting, good creation from artists.

Now let’s talk about the project : 70 x 7 The Meal, act XXXIV

Before anything let’s look at the title. So the numbers what do you think they mean ? 7 has always been an important numbers, in many religions. The exact formula is used in the Bible :

Then Peter came to Him and said : “Lord, how often my brother shall sin against me, and I forgive him ? Up to seven times ?”Jesus said to him : ” I do not say to you up to seven times, but up to seventy times seven”.

The exepression is used as a symbol of the infinity, as a Meal happening over and over, not just once marked in time.

The number of the act is, well really simply, it is the 34th one they organized.


So what exactly does it consist of ?

The artists were invited by the Mural Arts Program (I talked about them before), because this year is their 30th anniversary. How cool is that for a social project ? Imagine a project dedicated to a city and its inhabitant that runs for 30 years.

The performance was October 5, but to get there Mural Arts organized events for months with their What We Sow program around the thematic chosen for the meal : politics of food production and the role heirloom foods can play in creating a healthier ecology and food system.

The performance :

The artists project The Meal are meals organized in the entire world, each times different, with a different theme, a different menu, and a different design they make. Each time the attendees have the opportunity to buy and take their plate away with them. However Philadelphia’s Meal was very special for two reasons : it was the biggest meal organized by the artists (900 personns), and the attendees had the opportunity to take their plate with them for FREE.

IMG_4009As Jorge Orta said during the conversation “The plate is not a plate. The Meal is not a meal”, very Magritte right ? What he meant by that is that the meal is a performance, it is not just any meal. The performance is not the objects, the performance is made by the people interacting together, eating together and talking about heirloom food and healthy food production problematics. Talking about their future. On the other side The plate which they designed, is during the Meal, a plate, but then it turns into an artwork and a messenger. It becomes an artwork by the fact that it is unique and what it represents, a physical trace of the performance. A support of the message given by the artists.

The attendees, after the Meal, they are no longer attendees, they become Ambassadors to this message. They make a comittment by taking the plate into their homes and share their experience with friends and family by spreading the message about the problematics.

Exactly let’s talk about the thematic of the Meal :

Ecology and Environmental matters are important to the Orta, they work often on this subject. Lucy and Jorge met farmers and producers, did research on all those species that are disappearing. This idea is shown during the Meal not just through the Menu but also by the design on the plate and the tablerunners. On them you can see design of those species but also statistics on how they have declined, how many species we have lost in the last few decades.

“It’s biodiversity loss, but it’s also cultural loss as well,  Lucy Orta said.

In addition to the Meal with the 900 guests, the Mural Arts delivered “Kits” of produce to different restaurants and garden throughout the entire city. In that way even if everyone could not attend “the Meal” they could be sharing and have their own version of the performance with exactly the same purpose and message.

The Mural Arts program is as I said before in its 30th year anniversary and through the years their work has evolved, you can call it Social Practice, Mediation Culturelle, or Public Art. But it is not just about the Murals now.

This event and the What We Sow project was also a way for them to show what they are capable of and what direction they are going into and I can’t wait to see what they do next.

There are many more things to say about this Meal, but this article is already too long I congratulate you if you have made it to the end ! Performance is always a tricky type of art not easy to understand, because it is an idea which comes to life in a physical way but for a short period of time and in most cases does not leave a trace (except here with the plates).

So as Jorge Orta said : “The Meal is not a meal, the plate is not a plate”

Even though you, who are reading this, you have not been an attendee but you can relate to the problematic of healthy food production, and our heritage disappearing slowly but surely. So go be an ambassador and spread the word among you, we can find ways to stop this loss, together, by simply sharing a meal.

To know more about the artists :


the performance :


the project :



3 responses to “70 x 7 The Meal, act XXXIV – Following Lucy + Jorge ORTA (English Version)

  1. interesting that a “mural” art program, where US are typically known as one of the leader, has choosen to move at least for a time to a food / ecology focus. From what I have seen on my last trips, there is a trend in US of growing interest in the “healthy food” and that would be intersting to see how American art production is may be reflecting this ? or if this event is more a precursor ?

  2. Pingback: 70 x 7 The Meal, act XXXIV – Accompagner Lucy + Jorge ORTA (article Français) |·

  3. Don’t forget this is happening in Philadelphia, the east coast, so they are really aware about these problematics. Actually they have a lot of community and urban gardens managed by non-profit organizations.
    Mural Arts is strongly animated by all social urban problematics that occure in habitants’ lives so they want to keep talking and having event around this subject. For sure they will talk about it again during their retrospective exhibition at the Pennsylvania Academy of Fine Arts because some documentation about this event will be presented.

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