The Bartlett School of Architecture


Given Table

Kai-Wen Chen

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Given Table is a performance that simulates the working conditions of a kitchen in Soho, London, by reacting to the spatial hierarchy of relations in restaurants, which moves from customer, to front of the house, to head chef, to commis chef, to kitchen porter. By addressing each section that this kitchen line consists of, the project seeks to broaden understandings of the physical and mental presssure that a restaurant worker endures during their working hours.

The performance consists of a set of positions relating to different roles involved in the production and consumption of restaurant food. Participants are invited to take turns carrying out different modes of food production, all necessary skills in the restaurant kitchen. The challenge is to handle a range of different ingredients and cookery techniques according to the demand of the customer. 

Participants are filmed constantly during this event; a condition that resonates with the surveillance techniques employed in modernised restaurant kitchens, where different forms of registration are imposed on staff in accordance with a strict time schedule for service delivery. The position of participants in the performance changes frequently so that they circulate through the installation on a time-based agenda. 

The orchestrator of the performance takes up a central position in the installation, from which views in all directions are offered, while the visual scope of the other participants is restricted. The participants of the performance make visible the lives of those who work in the shadows of the hospitality industry to the academic institution and everyday street.