SiteWorks: San Francisco performance 1969-85

Lion House, San Francisco Zoo, 1 Zoo Road

Bonnie Sherk, Public Lunch (2pm Saturdays through February 1971)

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With Public Lunch, which took place in the Lion House at the San Francisco Zoo, there were other concerns that developed. The piece was conceived, actually, in the Central Park Zoo. I had been invited to New York by Madamoiselle Magazine because they had given me an award as Woman of the Year in 1970, and they had arranged a room for me to stay in at the Waldorf Astoria. In the morning I ordered room service breakfast. I think I ordered a soft-boiled egg and some coffee. An elaborate table was wheeled into the room with at least twenty-five covered dishes. By the time I finally found the soft-boiled egg it was cold … I was struck by the amount of waste and ceremony. That was an image that really tickled and intrigued me. I went to the zoo on the same day and saw the animals in the cages. When I got back to San Francisco in 1971, I immediately went to the zoo and arranged Public Lunch, which was a very public performance that occurred on a Saturday at 2pm, the time that everyone knows the animals will be fed. Of course, I was one of the animals, and had my own cage and let in and out in the same manner as lions and tigers. For 95% of the public – and it was a very large public – it was a surprise event. The meal was catered by Vanessi’s Restaurant, which is a very established, famous restaurant in San Francisco, an old time known environment […] For the performance there were many dishes on the table and it was a juxtaposition between the human animal and other animals. (Sherk and Burnham 1981: 50)

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