Critical Encounters: Potluck with motiroti

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With everything InterArts has to offer, there are also opportunities to connect to a wider community of artists and activists through Columbia College Chicago’s Critical Encounters initiative. The theme for this year is Rights, Radicals, and Revolutions, and UK-based culture-mashing art collective motiroti is leading the charge with a series of potluck interventions throughout Chicago. Are you hungry for revolutionary cuisine? I’m a Critical Encounters participant, and I can give you the lowdown for activities this month.[flickr id=”6325173663″ thumbnail=”medium” overlay=”true” size=”original” group=”” align=”none”]

As the Critical Encounters videographer, I have had the privilege of documenting the pre-planning for this wonderful community-building project. The collaborations underway are with The Dorchester Project, The Jane Addams Hull House Museum, and En Las Tablas Performing Arts Center. Each of these sites will serve as a meeting point for the Critical Encounters participant-group, along with the general public, to eat, discuss, and create communal works from their interactions.

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CE Faculty Fellow Dr. Amy Mooney framed the art-making best, describing the spectrum from digital blogs (like yours truly) and websites to analog collaborative drawings on the paper tablecloths of the dining table. The emphasis is on the spontaneity of the moment–what works can be created from disparate people coming together for a culture-specific meal in a new location? What conversations are encapsulated in these artworks and, conversely, what artworks will spur new conversations?


For the motiroti project, these perspectives start with small individual interviews with participants–the students, artists, activists, and those working for each of the cultural sites. Between research fellow Darren Wallace and myself, we have been amassing this catalog of personal voices as a means of gathering something akin to cultural data points. Watching them, one gets the sense of the scale and difference within the group ready to work together.


It is fitting to see such a range of backgrounds in a city like Chicago. The diversity though, as Tim from motiroti brought up in conversation, is structured very differently from European cities such as London. There are still traces of segregation ingrained into the Chicago landscape, from neighborhoods to public transit to the complicated issues of gentrification. What is needed more than ever is civic engagement to bridge these divides of race, class, and politics in hopes of constructing a positive cultural dialogue.


What better way to do that than riding the El to a different part of town? How about sitting at a new table with people, foods, and history ready to be discovered? The CE initiative with motiroti is that complex and simple at the same time. The most casual and provocative conversations are at the dinner table, whether it is with family, friends, and soon-to-be-acquainted strangers. Perhaps we can get something monumental started by eating with one another, and satisfying a few different hungers we have in our lives.

The first meal is at the 1104 South Wabash Conaway Center on Wednesday, November 16th, from 6-9pm.