We are so happy to announce that a Lilith Commission from 2017 – YOU ARE INVITED – Orient Express Yourself by Dafna Maimon is living on in new shapes and will open tomorrow with the title
“FAMILY BUSINESS” at SIC artists’ space in Helsinki, Finland.
“Family Business” is the third in a series of exhibitions and performances inspired by autobiographical and micro historical research into a family-owned business – Finland’s first kebab and falafel restaurant “Orient Express”, opened by the artist’s Israeli father in 1985. Located in the “Forum” shopping mall in Helsinki city centre, the restaurant introduced Finns to the delicacies of the Middle East.
Some years ago, Maimon found a rather strange high-budget video ad from 1986 that her father had produced, which used his own exoticness in a high-paced narrative to market kebabs in Finland.Starting from this video-relic and her childhood memories, the artist has now reworked the commercial and reimagined the restaurant.
Today, Orient Express exists in a world beyond capital. The restaurant was first reconstructed in Lilith Performance Studio as the performance Orient Express Yourself,
where it was equipped with a functioning kitchen, complete with trained “restaurant workers” whose task was to sell falafel in exchange for the audience’s own words.
The customers paid prices ranging from 15 to 299 words, and answered questions relating to memories of family and gender roles, as well as the effects of destructive patriarchal structures. Their amplified recollections enabled a semi-shared and intimate space between strangers.
A few months later, Orient Express expanded its operations to Galerie Wedding, where the installation functioned as a ghostly memory of the long-gone restaurant.
There it sold falafels to the audience only on the opening, where the word-payment was recorded into an old tape recorder.
For the finnissage the restaurant catered to people again with the performance After Hours.
Maimon scripted an absurd movement score based on restaurant chores a worker performs when closing up for the night.
One chore was to count the takings; the words collected at the opening were played back within the performance as further fragmented memories to a new audience.
Now Orient Express has finally returned to Finland, 33 years after its initial opening, as the exhibition Family Business. At the opening event at SIC Space, the new mutation of the restaurant will serve falafel cooked and sold by the artist’s actual family members – her siblings.
As its next stop, the restaurant will branch out to Kim? Contemporary Art Center in Riga, where it will open in yet a new mutation as a performative space where collected local memories have been transformed into a script. The idea of a family business could be an overarching way to describe the artist’s work; she creates temporary small-scale communities that challenge stereotypical constructions. Through these communities, Maimon studies the very same elements her work materializes through; affect based constructions and their economies.
The exhibition is co-produced by Kim? Contemporary Art Centre, Lilith Performance Studio, Galerie Wedding, SIC Space and is generously supported by Latvia’s centennial programme.
Special thanks to Zane Onckule, Solvej Ovesen Helweg, Jonatan Habib Engqvist.
Photo credit: Lilith Performance Studio, Orient Express Yourself performance by Dafna Maimon, 2017.
Open: 3/2 – 4/3, 2028
Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/events/FamilyBuisness_Dafna Maimon