The lunch – before it became a business lunch or a lunch break – was a central, ritualized event bringing together the so-called traditional nuclear family, comprising the breadwinner father and homemaker mother raising their biological children. Lunch was the daily event that promoted family values and good breeding. If preserved in contemporary practice, this form of gathering, with its plurality of family-forms, remains somewhat ‘culturally divided’ – late lunch in the East, early dinner in the West.
At the beginning of the most recent financial crisis and with the rise of right-wing sentiments in Europe (if the violent breakup of Yugoslavia and tricky transition period of the 1990s were not portentous enough), Ana Hušman has reconstructed the socially traumatic scene of lunch by deploying the artificial, automatized language of books of etiquette – le bon ton. In the customs of communal eating and drinking, the guest and their host families demonstrate their finesse and table manners to each other. “Eating with grace and delicacy – means being sensitive to the eyes and ears of our fellow guests […]”* – the video underscores this auditory landscape.
Hušman’s video shows the labor of the housewife in its full ‘immateriality’ and familism of ‘naturalized’ care. Like a magic wand, the animation has things popping up from nowhere. Unspoken instructions for social cues come into full visibility and audibility.
Is there anything more artificial than the evocation of bourgeois ‘good manners’ – the legacy of the stylish and fashionable set of high modernity in a world of harsh economic divides between the one percent of privileged elites and the exploited 99 percent?
*Ana Hušman, Lunch, 2008 [excerpt from the script].
Ana Hušman studied multi-media practice and art education, graduating in 2002 from the Academy of Fine Arts Zagreb where she now works as a lecturer in the Department for Animated Film and New Media. She exhibits regularly in solo and group exhibitions. Her films have been screened at many international film festivals and received a number of awards.