If this were another story, I’d tell you about the sky and the ceiling.
We were shuffling furniture around the flat the other day, and upon moving the round table by the bay window, I noticed four small circular dents in the carpet from the table legs. Staring into them, I came to think of all that’s gone that still remains, and the notion of permanence, and how it in itself is transient. We often think of the furniture around us to be inanimate, but I can’t help but see otherwise. Dependable and constant, it boldly imprints itself onto its surroundings, possessing qualities that I long desire for myself. I moved the table back to the same spot that evening, covering up any traces of this tangent.
It’s illogical to share such a small space by choice, yet we arrive at it each day as it tends to what nourishes. It feels good to be chosen.
I admire those who practice the more conventionally responsible way of working at a desk. I’ve tried for years. Conceptually, I like the idea of division, boundaries, and having a specific space to release my thoughts, but I mostly work and write in bed, with the view of my cluttered desk in my periphery. Surrendering to a seemingly lazy, slouching posture being my most productive, some of my most cherished thoughts have been formed sandwiched between my mattress springs and my duvet. To this day, I’m often still prompted to attempt being a desk writer. It lasts for an afternoon at best, before I retreat to my bed, transform my pillow into a tabletop, eventually arriving at my words once again.
I vividly remember experiencing Robert Therrien’s Under the Table (1994) for the first time. There was an unexpected heatwave in late October in Los Angeles, which made spending a few hours at The Broad with its air conditioning feel extra indulgent. Standing beneath the larger-than-life-sized dining set, my scale felt so clear. I felt like a kid again, and as if I was playing hide and seek (though no one was seeking). The work felt immersive, odd and impactful, and its grandeur prompted me to move slowly around it as I questioned consistency and shifting perspectives.
It’s curious how some spaces only exist within certain angles. For example, a lap does not exist when we’re standing. This surface created between one’s hip and their knees is manifested only in a position of rest: while sitting or laying. In creating a lap, we create space for perception to be questioned.
How can this sealed surface be so permeable?
The marble tables at i deal coffee hold so much of my past. I’ve spent hours there endlessly working, journaling, having meetings, and essentially knowing that space as an extension of my studio. The longer I’m away from Tkaronto (Toronto), the more that she feels like a distant memory. But my nose still knows the familiar smell of beans being ground, the same way that my palm still remembers her cool surface that I’d place my journal on upon arrival. She’s held me and my words all the same. When I struggle to write, I often think of afternoons working there. I try to go back whenever I’m home, and as I sit on the long wooden bench, arms resting on the marble ledge, and hands cradling a hot mug, I feel a profound connection to my earlier life. I let myself drop deeper into the worn-in wood as a means of indulging my nostalgia.
I still think back to that time when J told me how special it feels to make contact with the parts of ourselves that make us who we are. We spoke for hours about our freckles, scars, birthmarks; how touching them brings them closer, and how we use touch to understand. We traced over our knees, toes and cheeks, sharing how each mark was made. I fall into thinking of the scratches on my desk, and of how well worn (well loved) they are. I think of how the grains of the wood are like laugh lines. They each carry along their stories of existence, now huddled together on the surface below my screen. I think of how my fingerprint fits perfectly into this one shallow dent, and how I often rub into her as I think of the right word to fill my sentences. Our time together encourages her existence.
For years, Fontainebleau Diner in Piscataway, New Jersey was basically the extension of my family’s kitchen table. The menu was extensive, but we had staples. We always had stacks of pancakes with lots of butter and sugar, and extra crispy bacon for breakfast. Chicken fingers and fries were usually ordered for any other meal, always with extra honey mustard sauce, and often with matzo ball soup on the side. It was my grandparent’s favourite diner, so that made it everyone’s favourite diner, and for me that was enough. Thinking of it now, Fontainebleau was the first place where I felt like a “regular”, and I find myself longing for that kind of familiarity to this day.
Judy Chicago’s The Dinner Party (1979) was taught all throughout my undergraduate Art History classes. In Art Historical Studies I (ARTH*1050), I learned about its overall significance, impact and influence on contemporary art practices and feminism. In Art in the Americas (ARTH*2070), we spoke about the general response to the work from the public, and about Chicago’s practice as a whole. Finally, in Gender and Art (ARTH*3780) we learned more about the 998 women represented on The Heritage Floor and questioned the lack of representation of women of colour. When I saw this work in person at the Brooklyn Museum in New York, I remember realizing that this piece would continue to surface in my life for years to come. Now, over a decade since I first began unpacking The Dinner Party, my feelings about it are often shifting. Currently, they fall alongside an episode of Gossip Girl, where Serena and Blair are competing for the attention of the Dean of Yale at an admissions mixer. They’re attempting to impress him with their respective answers to his renowned parlour question: what person, real or imagined, living or dead, would you most like to have dinner with? I think about this from time to time and can’t help but imagine Judy Chicago, sitting at her dinner table, challenging Dean Berube to this very question himself.
The Tagalog term, “kamayan” directly translates to “with hands”, and it’s the traditional Filipino practice of eating with your hands, without any plates or utensils. A table or surface is covered with fresh banana leaves, and a mountain of rice is piled high in the centre. A generous assortment of ulam (the main dishes) are arranged around it – bangus, lechon, lumpia, longanisa – with all the sawsawans (dips) on the side. I know kamayan to be communally intimate, and there’s a true choreography to the ritual. One hand gathers, the other feeds. This practice is vibrantly alive, and it offers me a deep connection to my ancestors. My thumb guiding the rice to my mouth; leaning into the perfect bite. Cutlery often feels like unnecessary space between my food and I (I prefer to be closer). Everyone is welcome to the table, as food occupies the space between us.
I remember sitting in the kitchen at an unknown hour, with an unknown person, only to realise that I’d been there before. It was in that moment that I let it all feel familiar.
My navel is roughly a meter from the soles of my feet. It also sits at the same height as my kitchen counter.
You turned your jacket into a sofa, and your scarf into a table. I remember smiling sheepishly, but much more felt blurry. We looked onto the horizon, and the sky was so blue.
There are certain things that, when I see them, immediately lead me to replay a specific scene in my head from Seinfeld. Susan’s misfortune comes to mind whenever I lick an envelope, and I can’t help but be reminded of Kramer whenever I see a coffee table book. I think the true brilliance of this show lies in how it has woven its (non)sense into the fabric of our everyday.
The IKEA LINNMON / LERBERG table was my very first studio desk. To assemble it, you’ll need a #2 phillips screwdriver, a rubber hammer, and the allen key which comes with the LERBERG table legs. Start by first hammering in the small, straight piece perpendicular to the top of the two main parts of the leg, which are the only two pieces that directly mirror each other. They should fit snugly, and you then secure each joint with a small screw (provided). Next, attach the stretcher, using two screws on each side. Take the rear leg and attach the small support piece to it, and secure this to the rest of the LERBERG piece using the allen key and screw provided. It should resemble an easel or a tripod. Repeat this for the second LERBERG leg, and place them facing each other, roughly 1 meter apart. The LINNMON table top is simply placed atop the legs. You can secure it to the legs with screws, if desired. These screws are not provided.
I understand care in its truest form through the gestures of radical generosity in my surroundings. My furniture, bedroom walls and the stairs leading to my flat support selflessly. Providing to their capacities whether I need them or not, it’s comforting to know that they’re there regardless.
In Be My Guest, author Priya Basil speaks often and intricately about the radical nature of plated meals. She compares the edges of plates to borders (of choice, autonomy, tradition). Basil also speaks of how plating meals for your guests can be a hostile act – that the host’s desire to impress and entertain through portion size or aesthetics could in turn leave the guest bound to a dish that they do not enjoy, can not finish, or could even leave them hungry. She states that guests submit to the whims of the host, so it perhaps only makes sense to give guests control over what goes on their plate, and a plate is often the final place that food rests before it enters our bodies. I think about this often, and how it relates to a typical Filipino handaan. Food is always laid out on a large buffet table for people to help themselves to. There is always so much extra food, and conventional boundaries are often crossed. Eating is a sign of gratitude, and titas are often piling spoonfuls of the dishes they prepared on your plate while you’re already serving yourself, and they are ready to refill your plate once it’s empty. You’re always sent home with enough leftovers to last you another meal, extending their hospitality across time and physical space. My understanding of hospitality was established at these gatherings. When I was younger, I’d sometimes try to defy these deeply built-in customs, only to eventually lean into them, embracing many of these traditions now myself. This form of hosting is radical. It’s unavoidable, generous to a fault, and is one of the most comforting sensations I’ve grown into.
The feeling of placing heavy bags of groceries on the counter is almost as satisfying as the moment when you drop your keys on the entry table after coming home from a long day.
I remember how the weight of your wooden dining table dug into my fingertips as we carried it up the stairs. Breaks to catch our breath felt indulgent, and I smirked to myself at the first signs of closeness. We sat around it and had a cup of tea to celebrate. From there to now, it’s remarkable how we can fall out of the practice of knowing. From there to now, it’s remarkable how it’s more ambiguous than ever before.
As we continue to run parallel at different speeds, I wonder if we’ll ever share a surface or collide in a corner ever again.
Now and then, I still think back to when carving our names or messages into our desks at school felt rebellious for all the right reasons. I sometimes long for that childhood approach to defiance, of connecting past, present and future, and of feeling part of something much larger than myself.
I took my earrings off, put them on the nightstand, and exhaled entirely.
Juliane Foronda (b. 1991, Manila) is a Filipina-Canadian artist, organiser and writer. She received her BA in Studio Art from the University of Guelph in 2013, and her MA in Fine Art from Listaháskóli Íslands in 2018. Juliane has worked at various galleries, artist-run spaces and residencies internationally, and she co-founded and directed RÝMD in Breiðholt, IS from 2017 to 2018. She is currently based in Glasgow, Scotland where she is undertaking long-term independent research on radical feminist hospitality at Glasgow Women’s Library.