Consuming food is a primitive human habit usually done indoors within someone's home. Have you wondered what happens when you strip the usual factors away from this customary act? The Urban Gorillas have and they put it to the test.
Upon the study of urban, public spaces, the Nicosia-based organization set out to experiment with the re-construction of such spaces, encouraging individuals to engage and re-invent their urban surroundings.
To those which the words 'Urban Gorillas' have just reached their ears, allow me to introduce you to a creative team working on re-introducing the use of communal space through art projects. They are a non-for-profit organization, founded in 2013, consisting of people sharing a common interest in improving life in the city space by using creative operations whilst promoting messages for social inclusion and regeneration of urban spaces.
On Sunday the 11th of December, the group held their latest project, the Urban Dinner, at Larnaca peer. A white cloth, poppy seed-plates, colourful dishes and unfamiliar faces filled a long table across the peer. Members of the Urban Gorillas sat at the table and invited strangers to share a unique food/art experience with them. Slowly, 16 participants of all ages and cultural backgrounds sat in front of each other exchanging food and painting with their ingredients on the white table cloth whilst by-passers observed and occasionally also engaged.
The white cloth covering the bodies of the participants, with holes for only their heads and hands, soon turned into a messy palette of creation. Talking to Veronica Antoniou, curator of Urban Gorillas, she expressed how "the idea of having this table cloth covering people was to show that we are all equal and engaging at the moment with the same element. We also wanted to use it as a big canvas where all the participants would co-create a common art piece".
According to Antoniou, the Urban Dinner art performance, which is part of the Urban Spectacle project series, has an aim to challenge the perceptions of how people look at each other and most importantly create a culture of enjoying public space in the city.
The greater project series that are curated by the team and involves collaboration with other artists, are funded by the Ministry of Culture. The Gorillas, wish to re-visit everyday human activities and re-position them in the public space, thus building upon their work of re-constructing urban city life. Curator and architect Antoniou, comments how interaction with one's public space occurs freely across Europe yet she notices a lack of this activity in Cyprus.
"We see this happening in many cities now where people can go out and have picnics in the park and can use the city's free facilities...here we don't even have this infrastructure to push people to go out and use the city as an extension of their own living room".
As the Urban Gorillas noticed how mostly the foreigners in Cyprus engaged with their urban public spaces freely, they ran a large scale research where they realized that the majority of their survey group only considered a public space a cafeteria or the mall. This only affirmed their desire to change this idea and encourage individuals to connect with the urban city.
Besides hoping to bring value to this shared space that citizens have, the Gorillas also touch on the topic of a more conscious involvement of the development of such spaces.
"On a more political side we should also be more involved as citizens in decision-making that has to do with how these spaces are developed and this is not happening in Cyprus. Decisions are coming top down of how to use cities" added Veronica Antoniou.
Urban Gorillas are currently working on the Urban Spectacle series, which consists of four/five installations in the city and through creative means which include audience participation within a public space, they try to shift the common interaction of a citizen and the surroundings. An alternative and artistic approach that the group is introducing in hopes of enriching life in the urban city.