Henrieke Neumeyer
product design

Dining - an everyday matter, shaped by space and time, surfaces, tableware and tools. Plates, bowls and glasses embody equality at the table, coded by history, rituals and the social milieu. The kitchen - space for the food preparation. The dining table - a place to gather. The plate - circuits an individual portion. In between the textile. It is intended to protect the table, put the plate in scene, liven up the room, create connections and set a frame for the placement of certain objects. Eating - well rehearsed rules of processes and integrated objects.

»What I think, I can let others know, what I see, I can let them see, what I talk, hundreds can hear, but what a single person eats, under no circumstances can another eat« Georg Simmel. ²

Collective dining is therefore not a natural habit and even all approaches to creating a community will not make individualism disappear. Starting with different tablecloths, the different boundaries and common areas can be made visible by tracking the movements of the hands at the table. Usual table situations in western culture are very linear and one can recognise cole areas and practised, common movements that have a fixed direction.The tablecloth can therefor also be seen as the playing field of the dinig act.

The establishment of a collective eating process marks the beginning of communities. Every culture forms its recurring procedures and specific rules, in which its social organisation and anchoring is reciprocally reflected. The exploration of food processes is thus also an exploration of the respective culture itself. Claude Lévi-Strauss and Mary Douglas speak of food in a similar way to language as a kind of code that expresses patterns of social relationships. It is a non-verbal form of communication. In a heterogeneous society, the community of dining is shaped not only by traditional norms and artifacts, but also by the background of each individual. The act of eating then serves not only to strengthen social relationships but also to support cultural exchange.

With the establishment of convenience food, which immensely accelerates the process of food preparation and dining, we have entered a dualism of efficiency and moral dispute over sustainable and healthy food. On the one hand, it seems that eating together is losing importance in favor of other activities. On the other hand, especially in times of social distancing, its importance becomes even more apparent.

Compagno consists of a set of textiles and objects used for an experimental form of eating. A sheet of fabric that can be converted into a bag to transport various vessels adapted to the application. When unfolded, the textile can be laid out in different lengths, which in turn define the distance between the participants, each placed at the very end of it. In this way the common, social space between the people sitting opposite each other can be varied, from intimate to personal, to social and ultimately public distance. The textiles unfold, expand to a second individual and potentially multiply to an unlimited number of people.

¹ Lemke, Harald. Szenarien Der Ernährungswende: Gastrosophische Essays Zur Transformation Unserer Esskultur. Edition Moderne Postmoderne. Bielefeld: transcript, 2018.

² Rath, Claus-Dieter. Reste Der Tafelrunde: Das Abenteuer Der Esskultur. Orig.-Ausg. Rororo ; 7816 : Sachbuch- Kulturen u. Ideen. Reinbek bei Hamburg: Rowohlt, 1984.