Published on December 8, 2016
by Kaitlyn Lynes
Parsons School of Design and the Food Studies program at Eugene Lang College are currently running a joint exhibition in the Arnold and Sheila Aronson Galleries through early January 2017. As a response to Roxy Paine’s Dinner of the Dictators, an art piece centered around the meals of twelve infamous dictators, the organizers of the event asked Milano School Associate Dean and SGPIA Professor Nina Khrushcheva to imagine the conversation that might happen around the table.
SGPIA students Eirik Jørgensen, Kaitlyn Lynes, and Aly Mady, enrolled in Professor Khrushcheva’s “Media and Politics of Propaganda” course, worked with her to write a short script to archetype the dynamic personalities of the dictators as they share a meal.
Stalin squabbles with Kahn, Hitler teases Mussolini, and Napoleon defends Trump over strange delicacies like frog legs, raw vegetables “cut in an unusual way”, and mare’s blood. “It was a unique opportunity to work on an art project alongside my regular academic assignments, especially the challenge of imagining what dictators of various eras would have talked about,” Jørgensen said of the creation process. “Working on this in a café was particularly interesting; you get some looks when you’re discussing, ‘So, how would Hitler respond to Mussolini here?’”
The finalized script was recorded, with members of the group playing the various roles themselves. In the end, the dictators celebrate the election of Donald Trump and the downfall of democracy.
In the post-election context, a looming question is as yet unanswered: will President-elect Donald Trump be well-appraised by authoritarian leaders around the world, a case of life imitating art? In an era in which the United States President-elect has praised autocratic Philippine President Rodrigo Duerte (of “I don’t care about human rights” fame), the lines between reality and fiction are becoming increasingly blurred. Time will tell if this imagined dinner conversation between historical dictators is a foreshadowing of a new normal.
You can listen to the recording of the conversation in an installation located near Roxy Paine’s original piece. Find out more details about the exhibition, including the days and hours the gallery is open, here.
Kait Lynes is an SGPIA student, concentrating on Conflict & Security. She plans to graduate with the class of ‘17.
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