Jef Geys — What Are We Having for Dinner Tonight?

Belgian artist Jef Geys (1934) investigates the institutional function of the museum, often by assuming the role of the saboteur and infiltrator. His controversial proposal at the occasion of his exhibition at Antwerp’s Museum of Fine Arts in 1970, to blow up the museum, is exemplary of his approach.

For the Bruges Triennial in 1968, Geys proposed to rent out the exhibition space granted him to people who were not invited by the organizers. Such undermining projects are, of course, not permitted by museum authorities; Geys either exhibits the repressive reactions his proposals provoke or presents them in his newspaper the Kempens Informatieblad, which he publishes with each new project.

The exhibition What Are We Having for Dinner Tonight? was associated with the fifth Architecture International Rotterdam manifestation, whose theme was the postwar residential areas built in Rotterdam’s Alexanderpolder neighborhood to replace housing bombed during World War II. Geys’s project reacted on this manifestation by commenting on the abstract way architects, urban planners and politicians tend to think about the urban environment.

By inviting nine families from Alexanderpolder to contribute to his exhibition, Geys let the residents have their own say about the area they inhabit. The project was realized with the cooperation of the families Bast, Battes and Risse, De Bruin, Diepstraten, Groot and Van Halem, Roodbeen and Boode, Van Schouwen, Sevenhuijsen, and Verkade.
In the exhibition, the families presented photographs of their living area. They reported on their daily experiences in three “Alexanderpolder special editions” of the Kempens Informatieblad, which was distributed in Rotterdam and Capelle aan den IJssel as a supplement to the door-to-door magazine De Havenloods. Each evening, throughout the entire exhibition period, one of the nine participating families was broadcast at dinner by the local television station.