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Belle - - Contents - Pho­to­graphs WILL NEILL Words KAREN M cCARTNEY

A din­ner with a dier­ence to cel­e­brate de­sign.

Food, wine, con­ver­sa­tion and ideas were flow­ing freely at an evening to cel­e­brate Martino Gam­per’s 100 re-imag­ined chairs.

You know a din­ner is un­usual when you are asked to bring a drink­ing glass with a story at­tached. The rst of a se­ries hosted by Ho­tel Ho­tel, the din­ner was a col­lab­o­ra­tion of RMIT’s De­sign Hub with de­signer Martino Gam­per, cre­ated for the shar­ing of food, wine, con­ver­sa­tion and ideas. Lon­don-based Martino was in Mel­bourne to open his ex­hi­bi­tion ‘100 Chairs in 100 Days’ at the in­vi­ta­tion of De­sign Hub. “We ad­mire Martino’s ap­proach, the way he trans­forms dis­used ob­jects into new chairs, giv­ing them new mean­ing, and his un­der­stand­ing of how ob­jects can tell cul­tural sto­ries,” says Ho­tel Ho­tel spe­cial projects di­rec­tor Dan Honey. Cul­tural sto­ries res­onate with Ho­tel Ho­tel. The con­cept be­hind its Mon­ster din­ing room draws on the no­tion of Aus­tralian sub­ur­ban fam­ily rooms of im­mi­grants from the 1940s to 80s as a gen­er­a­tor of ideas. So Martino’s fo­cus on re­search and process and his abil­ity to re-imag­ine with po­etry and wit were strong con­nect­ing themes.

Martino’s pro­ject has trav­elled the world, grow­ing grad­u­ally as a new chair is added at each desti­na­tion. For this pro­ject he col­lected dis­used chairs from al­ley­ways and friends’ homes and re­assem­bled them − one per day − but not, as he points out, nec­es­sar­ily con­sec­u­tively.

The din­ner played with no­tions of the fa­mil­iar, and fa­mil­ial, along­side the cu­ri­ous and slightly dis­con­cert­ing: con­ven­tions were ei­ther en­hanced or skewed. There were no place­cards so there was an el­e­ment of serendip­ity as to who you sat be­side. The meal, cooked by Mon­ster kitchen and bar ex­ec­u­tive chef Sean McConnell, was de­signed

to share and serve your­self as you would at home. Even the menu was ar­rived at by ex­change as Sean in­ter­preted Martino’s ref­er­ences to taste. We ex­pe­ri­enced bit­ter, raw and pick­led foods with avours in­clud­ing lemon, anise, cumin, fen­nel, chilli, co­rian­der and gin­ger. Ev­ery dish, served with gen­eros­ity and care, was a re­ward­ing sen­sory ex­pe­ri­ence.

While not a for­mal oc­ca­sion, friends of Ho­tel Ho­tel Jad Chou­cair and Nur Shkembi read Pales­tinian poet Mah­moud Dar­wish’s ‘Pass­port’ in English and Ara­bic. The poem ex­plores themes of na­tion­al­ity and iden­tity, how they are built and dis­man­tled – a par­al­lel with the chairs them­selves. The un­fa­mil­iar made us sit up and lis­ten, con­cen­trat­ing in an at­tempt to ex­tend our un­der­stand­ing.

The eu­ca­lyp­tus and banksia in­stal­la­tion by Me­lanie Stapleton from Ce­cilia Fox that wel­comed guests on the ter­race de­noted the mis­placed, while oral ar­range­ments were wrapped in brown pa­per and given to guests on de­par­ture in a way that was mod­est and heart­felt.

I did have a story to tell about my small pre­cious dusty pink Vene­tian glass tum­bler which I gladly gave to the de­sign lec­turer who sat be­side me. We had cov­ered a lot of ground dur­ing the course of the evening and so a ges­ture that re­minds us of the value of shar­ing was en­tirely ap­pro­pri­ate − and I have to say I did leave feel­ing rather vir­tu­ous.

Clock­wise from top Guests on the ter­race at RMIT De­sign Hub. Shar­ing plate of steamed Dain­tree bar­ra­mundi, cab­bage and pick­led daikon by chef Sean McConnell of Mon­ster res­tau­rant. Martino Gam­per’s ‘100 Chairs in 100 Days’. The de­signer by the in­stal­la­tion by Me­lanie Stapleton.

Clock­wise from top right Aerial view of the re-imag­ined chairs. Ta­ble set­tings were in­for­mal and cre­ative. Ho­tel Ho­tel founder Nec­tar Efkar­pidis, in dis­cus­sion. Imag­i­na­tive so­lu­tions show in the re-formed chairs. Starter of gin-cured kingsh, cu­cum­ber and dill. Mon­ster chef Sean McConnell.

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