Eugenio Salas – Multidisciplinary – Group 2, Round 2 Awardee
Site-specific participatory performances about sustainability and food geographies around the city.
Moving forward with the Communal Comal project will give us the opportunity to complete the project’s life cycle by activating a fire-powered sculpture that has been designed and fabricated collectively with Latinx immigrant laborers and cooks. Through such a process we created a safe space to celebrate our identity, stories, and gastronomies and, with a socially engaged project intervened in the practices of an art residency that generally prioritizes object-based art.
The Communal Comal will carry those stories of labor and migration. This next stage of the project will allow us to share the sculpture’s evolution with new communities and load it up with more stories of labor, food, and local geographies.
The Communal Comal concept engages community members to activate a sculpture at public events in multiple neighborhoods across the city as a platform for community-building and storytelling. The Communal Comal will use the city’s diverse gastronomies as a point of departure to build relationships that cut across social and economic barriers. The Communal Comal is also a strategy to challenge the dominant narrative of public art in which the artist is a creator and the audience is a consumer.
The Communal Comal will consist of a series of five live participatory performances in public places where communities already gather, such as neighborhood parks. Each activation will be planned in collaboration with local organizations with whom I have existing relationships, including SEAAMAC in FDR Park, Kingsessing Recreation Center, Philly Boricuas in Roosevelt Park, and Puentes de Salud in Capitolo Playground. Other cookouts will be hosted in self-run community gardens (e.g., Iglesias Community Garden and Sun Park in North Philly). I will partner with leaders and organizations embedded in each community to recruit amateur and professional cooks, who are well-known in their communities for their cuisines, to collaborate on designing, preparing, and serving a menu for the event.
The public events will be free and consist of public speaking centering the voices of collaborating cooks, live cooking and music, and communal eating. In collaboration with community partners, I will design and execute each event’s promotion in a culturally sensitive way. To reach out more broadly, I will design a social media campaign supported by a digital communications professional.
To ensure the events have a lasting legacy, participant cooks will be part of a series of mini video documentaries centered around food as a form of expression, cultural representation, and survival. The videos, event documentation, and recipes will be part of a dedicated website for the project. Importantly, community partners and collaborators will be compensated for their labor.