Jennifer Rubell

Reconciliation
2009

 
The moment of reconciliation arrives after - possibly long after - having been together, and before being together again. The Reconciliation Dinner was conceived to capture that liminal moment, the space between disagreement and agreement, between antagonism and understanding, between hostility and peace. The moment of reconciliation does not arrive with pomp and circumstance (that will come later), but with a will to come together, a mutual desire, a momentary willingness that must be harnessed at that very moment before it evaporates, declines into war, or becomes too embarrassing or politically difficult to maintain. The moment of reconciliation is fleeting, impromptu, fragile. It is a window of potential trust between people who do not actually trust each other. It is the triumph of hope over experience. Every moment of reconciliation that has ever existed in the history of the world is a miracle. Fundamental to this miracle is a belief in the humanity of a dehumanized enemy, in the desire of all people to privilege peace over pride, in the understanding that our deepest interests are common. The setting of the Reconciliation Dinner is intentionally basic: plywood boards nailed together to form a single table. Wooden folding chairs. The most generic instruments of eating and drinking. Decoration, luxury and refinement are stripped away, to even the playing field and to reinforce the commonness of the participants. Everyone sitting at the dinner is human. There are no thrones, there is no gold, there is no display of the spoils of the victor for the vanquished to envy. It is a table and chairs and food and human beings. Our first view is the bread, and we quickly understand that unless together we decide to break it, we will not eat. We will use that bread as a utensil, as a vehicle, as a means of connection to those around us. Breaking bread will be our first shared action. The bread will not reconcile our differences, but it will bring us into conversation. We will learn to give and to take. We will covet something our neighbor has, and with the bread they will share it. We will share too. And we will, we hope, begin to reconcile.
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