Yes, we’re kicking off the project with a rather grand meal: al fresco Italian cuisine by candlelight! Next to a frickin’ lake! I had cold cuts, penne alla puttannesca, pork loin and panna cotta! Check it!
Sat next to Kaffe Matthews
, who’s currently in a blissed out state because she’s spent the past ten days trekking around.
Kaffe: I love this country. I have never travelled with such joy at every moment.
She’s been staying at backpacker inns, chatting with backpackers in the backs of tuk-tuks (even bumped into our interpreter, Thet, in Moulmein!). And she’s never, ever found herself in a situation in which so many people have been so genuinely interested into talking to her as a visitor.
Kaffe: A guy gave me a violin in Moulmein!
Once a cop stopped her when she was about to go down a dark street, volunteered to escort her, and stuck by her side throughout dinner, giving commands through his walkie-talkie, while she munched on her mohinga on the streetside. Later he found a little boy to walk her home too. And he ran away before she could give him a tip.
Kaffe: I’ve never been so happy. I haven’t felt like this for year. And it’s really beautiful.
The reason why she’s taken these ten days, of course, is that she’s gone for FCP before, and she knows the problems it brings with it: the horrible jet lag, the sense of being busy all the time, the seclusion in chi-chi restaurants and residences to the extent that you don’t’ get to meet *real* people, you don’t get to see the *real* country you’re an ambassador to.
So she asked for these ten extra days – even volunteered to do a workshop at a private music school. And after days spent in hostels, the Parkroyal and the penne puttannesca are even lovelier treats than they would be otherwise.
I wandered by KS’s table: he had similar issues on his mind. Y’see, this was the first edition of FCP in which he’d really tried to invite back alumni. Kaffe came, and so did Wu Wenguang and Takamine Tadasu. But ten people wrote back saying they were busy: never mind the winter frost, they were touring the opera houses and galleries of Europe.
It’s the European Union that’s made this happen: how art is now one common market, so artists are always employed, making stuff, showing stuff. That’s great, I thought, but the folks at the table said no: artists need the time and space to consider their practice and the audiences they’re speaking to: jet-setting from Helsinki to Barcelona is not, in the end, sustainable.
KS: We have to come about with some way to shift from international curation – you go into the city and all the curators just buy up whoever is interesting and you se them in Paris, in New York, in London.
And of course, they think they’re making more money, but everything becomes expensive on the way, so they’re not. FCP, ideally, is a remedy for this: an oasis in the hubbub, a curated space for reflection and regeneration.
KS: It’s really an adventure that we’re going on. It is not a workshop, it is not a conference, it is not a rehearsal for action, but it is in a sense a meeting. And whatever the meeting means the meeting could be some kind of seed for the future. I think it is important that we discover what we want along the way.
One final note: the restaurant has a motherfuckin' creche.