Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner Too? is a community art project by visual artist and activist Patricia Kaersenhout, which started in 2017. With this work, Kaersenhout (1966) delivers an artistic critique on Judy Chicago’s The Dinner Party (1979), which celebrates strong women but under represents women of colour. Inspired by this work, Kaersenhout built an installation consisting of a large triangular dining table, full of symbolism, where she honors Black women and women of color. These ‘heroines of resistance’ deserve much more attention because of their fight against injustice.
Kaersenhout researched hidden and forgotten stories, like she did before in a body of work that unfolds as an artistic search for the meaning of invisibility resulting from the African diaspora and colonialism. Her work embodies the paradox of wanting to visualize the unseen and to allow the undefinable. The subjects Kaersenhout researches and broaches deal with the position of Black women in relation to sexuality, slavery, colonialism and racism.
After the development of the prototype in 2017 at WOW Amsterdam, which was firmly rooted in Amsterdam West through a unique, intensive collaboration between three cultural institutions, all run by women: AGA LAB, GildeLab, WOW Amsterdam and local women of the Kolenkit neighborhood, the work travelled to De Appel in the autumn of 2019. In total 38 Black women were represented at the table through emroidered tablerunners. Also a large series of glass vessels were produced by the artist, inspired by the ceramics of (pre-Christian) South America and Africa and placed randomly, representing a communal body instead of individual seats. Glass is chosen because it is one of the oldest mediums, in its fluid molecular nature, with both transparent and opaque qualities, symbolises the right to opacity that marginalised people have.
In the latest iteration developed in the summer of 2021 for four Dutch museums – The Frans Hals Museum in Haarlem, Stedelijk Museum in Amsterdam, Centraal Museum in Utrecht and the Van Abbemuseum in Eindhoven – another 22 Black women were added bringing the total up to 60. The amount of table runners, vessels and biographies is adjusted accordingly. The work can now also be split up in four separate triangle formed tables. In its smallest form every museum can show 15 Black heroins at one table each. Till 2 January 2022 this configuration is exhibited at the Frans Hals Museum.
The table is by no means a static object but is activated to bring different groups and communities together. For example the table runners are not finished and probably never will. But they can be used to embroider further and whilst embroidering stories could be shared.
Click here to read an essay about the work by Vivian Ziherl.
Click here to read the artist statement about the work.
Click here to download full credit list.