Dinner: The Art of Turning the World on its Head

What would Gertrude Stein and Michael Jackson say to each other at a dinner party? Or Billie Holiday and Virginia Woolf? More importantly, what would they eat?

The art of the conversation was the signal achievement of Gertrude Stein’s Paris salon, and her forays into artistic friendships are key to our current exhibition Seeing Gertrude Stein: Five Stories, on view at the Contemporary Jewish Museum through September 6.

Today’s equivalent of walking into 27 Rue de Fleurus, where Stein, Picasso and Matisse turned the world on its head, might be a visit to our post-modern YUD gallery on Thursday, June 2 and Sunday, June 5, when poet Jesse Nathan and artist/composer Chris Janzen unveil Dinner, a Stein-style salon in which dead eccentrics push art, culture, and language to its breaking point–and beyond.

The performances of Dinner, rife with period-savvy food and drink, are an extension of the multimedia evenings Nathan and Janzen have presented nationally over the last couple of years, built on top of Nathan’s book of poems, also called Dinner. Nathan, an editor at McSweeney’s, and Janzen, a composer and art professor at Fresno Pacific University, agreed to recreate their salon for the Stein show in order to give visitors access to the kind of radical, boundary-breaking conversations that happen when geniuses get together for long periods in small rooms.

Nathan recently quipped about Dinner: “It’s a deranged Passover, but with an electric guitar and no exodus.” This fits the Museum’s mission of reinventing both the rituals of conversation and art-making. With Seeing Gertrude Stein: Five Stories and its attendant programs, the Museum attempts to offer a new take on Jewish life through the prism of art, and a fresh look at modernity through the adventures of a headstrong Jewish girl who escaped Oakland for Paris – and immortality.


Elizheva Hurvich said…
I very much enjoyed the evening, though it seemed less like a conversation than a series of monologues.

that said, it can lead to more conversations. and more dinner!

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