From “Womanhouse” by Arlene Raven
The Womanhouse Dining Room, a collaboration among Beth Bachenheimer, Sherry Brody, Karen LeCoq, Robin Mitchell, Miriam Schapiro, and Faith Wilding, is a formal family room, but unoccupied (p. 50). The table is elaborately laid, but with entirely inedible artificial food (such as treated bread dough) on sewn fabric plates. A mural interpretation of a still life by Anna Peal on the wall features food more believable (although two-dimensional) than the chilly dinner on the table. The Dining Room is linked to other spaces by the passage of the viewer from room to room
From “Collaboration” by Judith E. Stein
In [Suzanne Lacy’s] view, the public rituals she creates form a continuum with the pageants staged by turn-of-the-century women’s labor and suffrage movements. Mindful that “organizers used dinners, birthday parties, and gift-giving as rituals to … build a sense of solidarity,” she has often shaped preexisting women’s networks into feminist art forms. For example, on March 14, 1979, she set in motion “The International Dinner Party” event to mark the opening of Judy Chicago’s Dinner Party. Over two thousand women dined together in various-sized groups to honor women of their choice.
Lacy went on to mine the informal collaborative tradition of the potluck dinner, which Lucy Lippard has insightfully described as “a classically feminist collage [bringing] together a highly disparate group of women and their culinary offerings.” In 1980, the Women’s Caucus for Art was obliged to hold its annual convention in New Orleans, in a state that had not ratified the Equal Rights Amendment. Lacy was invited by conference organizers to participate in the planning process, and collectively they staged the entire five-day event as an “expanded performance.” As a symbolic protest, they stayed in private homes and boycotted restaurants. The conference opened with a potluck meal that brought together five hundred ethnically diverse women to celebrate their southern heroines. Lacy choreographed this and other communal dinners as performances that succeeded in raising the political consciousness of the local women’s community. She also involved local artists in a variety of events and strategized an ERA media campaign.