The famous American concept of “food for thought” was taken to an entirely different level by les soeurs Martin (the Martin sisters). Last Tuesday evening, a hungry audience attended the Fairfax Hotel in D.C’s Dupont Circle for what promised to be an out-of-the-ordinary plated dinner.
The palettes of the attendees were enticed by a menu that consisted of mussels with fries and garlic aioli as the appetizer, a pan seared chicken roulade spinach and prosciutto with talbot cheddar corn soufflé romanesco as the entrée, and a sumptuous bourbon chocolate and brandled cherry daquiose with blackberry sauce as the dessert.
As the food and wine flowed, the minds and imagination of the attendees were also catered to by Patricia and Marie-France Martin, two sisters from Belgium who helped servers pour wine for the guests and made sure they were satisfied with their meals. Both women were dressed in black, and wore identical wigs in the same color, adding to their air of mystery.
Their performance, “Society. Strange Fruit & Frite” was conducted in English and French. The dinner tables faced a small stage on one of the far ends of the charming dining room at the Fairfax Hotel. A large projector was lit on the stage and displayed an unusual visual presentation created by the Martin sisters:
A,B,C,D… words with no apparent order were displayed on black letterheads over a white screen. Their meaning? Always open to interpretation. Patricia and Marie-France were simply facilitators in a space that became increasingly difficult to decipher. Embedded in the presentation were excerpts of black and white films, whose plots were full of intrigue and showed the myriad complexities of human nature.
The sound of forks, knives, spoons, the clashing of wine glasses and the general chatter at each dining table slowly transformed what had originally seemed a simple dinner into a space for reflection where even sense of humor flourished. What had initially begun as quite dinner tables led into an evening where people were no longer strangers to each other, and where the space for questioning grew.
By the end of the performance, people left the dining room in a state of awe and reflection. Had they witnesses an illogical performance? Or rather, is it only logical to realize the lack of logic in life?
I had the opportunity to interview Marie-France and Patricia after their performance, and learned much more about their lives and work as artists, about Belgium, and about the absurdity of life.
What is surrealism for you?
Marie-France: Patricia, my sister, does what I personally think of as surrealism: a logic that is illogical. The performance has an open structure, which is also a component of surrealism.
Patricia: Surrealism is characteristic of Belgium. Magritte, for example, he unites things that a priori do not go together. I think that if there is an axis there is an answer, but that requires obtaining a code in order to transform it. This is how a performance transpires into reality.
What did you want your audience to take away from your performance?
Marie-France: I was looking stimulate their imagination and put forward the question of language. As part of an amusing evening, there was also a power relationship that I wanted to become exposed to the audience.
Patricia: Servants, elements, words, language, synchronization, and the desire to give music a space. It was amazing for me to realize that I had forgotten to what extent performing here was another world. I wanted our performance to act like a mirror, to create an epidermal reaction on the America public.
What was the most pressing challenge when performing for the audience that evening?
Patricia: Understanding the political nuances of the American public and how that interfered with their understanding of the films that we showed.
Marie-France: Conquering the public, interacting with the public trying to get them to stay with me.
What has been your most memorable performance, book, theatre play, or the like as an audience member?
Marie-France: The novel Fairy Queen by Olivier Cadot. The language that he uses in this novel is different and the rules are different. The author questions elements from the past and from the present, exposing the past in the present. It is fantastic!
Patricia: The performance Veronique Doisneau directed by the choreographer, Jerôme Bel. I saw this in Brussels and was amazed by its autobiographical component.
SMALL IS MORE continues through Saturday, with events on Friday evening and all day Saturday until 11:00 p.m. For more information, please visit the program page by clicking here.