In 1935, in the shadows of America’s first Great Depression, two Soviet satirists were sent to the US by Pravda to depict it for an eager home audience. The resulting compilation of essays and snap shots, One-Storied America, became a fixture on every Soviet bookshelf. As Ilya Ilf and Evgeny Petrov wrote:
"The word 'America' has well-developed grandiose associations for a Soviet person, for whom it refers to a country of skyscrapers, where day and night one hears the roaring thunder of surface and underground trains, the hellish roar of automobile horns, and the continuous despairing screams of stockbrokers rushing through the skyscrapers waving their ever-falling shares.We want to change that image."
In 2012, Irina Zadov and Abraham Epton had a similar vision. A desire to rediscover their places of origin, the memories that shaped them, and the stories their current residents tell while breaking bread. Open Feast was journey around the world fueled by open source collaboration and old school hospitality. We hosted intimate potlucks with friends and strangers in an effort to bring us all a bit closer together.
Over the course of six months, we traversed 35 cities, 15 states, 5 countries, and two continents. We hosted picnics in bootleger caves, abandoned zoos, parking lots, yurts, corn fields, galleries, urban farms, historic settlement houses, and rural dachas. At each table we asked participants to share a story and a meal connected to their homeland: their memories, their contentions, the feelings of pride, loss, displacement, and resistance. We documented each meal through photography and audio, sharing stories and recipes through social media and a digital travel log. After a teddybear related act of protest art in Belarus that led to a diplomatic crisis between Belarus and Sweden, we found ourselves in Stockholm interviewing the recently expelled Swedish Ambassador which led to an artist-in-residency in The Hague.
Photography courtesy of Irina Zadov.