Guests at Tuesday night’s “Mordant” dinner party won’t have to worry about spilling the wine or anything else for that matter.
Artist Victoria Manganiello has gone to great lengths to ensure that they do, in order that the end result will lead to a textiles-turned-canvas painting. What started two years ago as a fun experiment inviting friends and family to her Brooklyn apartment for overly messy dinners has evolved into an art project, installation and film. Kristin Kremers will be shooting the scene at Edelkoort Inc.’s West Village town house for a film that will be shown during Textiles Month in September.
Manganiello, a textiles teacher for undergraduates at The New School’s Parsons School of Design and New York University, also works as a consultant to designers and artists for research and product development. Her fellow artist and collaborator Yto Barrada will be among the 20 seated at the dinner table. Busy cooking Tuesday morning, Manganiello said all of the recipes are ones that she has conceptualized herself with ingredients that will leave lasting marks on the tablecloth “so they won’t just be stains. They have been prepared so that they will actually be dye.”
Avocado, pomegranate, beets, rosemary, turmeric and blueberries will be some of the ingredients. Beforehand, she soaked the tablecloth in a mineral solution of iron and aluminum that “will chemically allow the fiber to open up and accept the lasting color from the food that will be intentionally spilled.”
She also designed the tableware, making it smaller than average with strategically placed holes that will naturally make the food once it has been served ebb into the cloth. Guests at the dinner will also wear handmade smocks and gloves that she has designed so that it will be a “full immersive textiles-meets-food-experience,” Manganiello said, “I see textiles as the ultimate equalizer. It is something that we all share. I hope the people who read about the project or consider attending themselves will examine their own relationship to textiles a little bit closer. Maybe they will think about the clothing they are wearing and where it comes from, how it is created, or their own relationship to the dining tablecloth and their past experiences and the waste that the stains left behind from a certain kind of meal. There are some incredible metaphors — philosophical and cultural — to be found in the woven structure as well.”
After the dinner, it will take a day or two to wash and stretch the tablecloth on a canvas to display it as a painting but “one that was made in collaboration of my guests at my dinner,” she said.
Tickets will be sold for four dinners at Edelkoort’s town house so that others can join into the experience. While the film is about Manganiello’s “Mordant” project, there will also be footage of Hillsdale, N.Y.’s Mettabee Farm where she sourced the wool that she later spun, as well as clips of her weaving the wool into a tablecloth in her Brooklyn studio. (That aspect takes 30 to 40 hours.)
“Besides just being about my project, it will also be a tool for people to understand a little bit more about how cloth is produced,” she said.
During this fall’s upcoming dinner there will be a designated area to screen the film so that diners can see how others interacted with the project. Mordant, a French word, refers to the process of cloth bonding with dye. She also noted how natural dye, which had been used for centuries before synthetic ones were introduced about 150 years ago, relied on a mordant technique. With any luck, the whole event will make people feel more comfortable about starting a conversation about art, which some find intimidating.
The artist will have her first solo show at the Java gallery in Brooklyn’s Greenpoint later this year, and her work will be featured in a group show in Zagreb, Croatia. Soon off to Sofia, Bulgaria, to spend a month there in advance of a show at the Cooperacia gallery, Manganiello plans to meet with textiles specialists there. In the future, she hopes to host Mordant dinners in other countries using tablecloths and foods indicative of those respective cultures.
“I’m compelled as a maker to work with textiles because I love that it’s this ubiquitous medium. We all wear clothing no matter our age, our race, our sex, our creed or no matter where we live around the world,” she said.