Dining Room

Country: UK
Duration: 21 mins
Sound: Stereo
Available Format/s: HD Video
Original Format: 16mm film


Dining Room, 1991, HD digital transferred from 16mm colour, mostly shot looking down into a sink in a restaurant with sounds recorded next to the sink and a radio which happened to be playing Dvorak’s Slavonic Dances. Preceded by standard 8mm footage blown up to 16mm of chef Sandra Cross in the kitchen.

Filmed mostly during the last two years of the Dining Room (1980-1990), Winchester Walk, London SE1 using a Bell and Howell camera which was designed to take 50 foot cassettes and a Beaulieu which took 100 feet or a 200 foot magazine. Some early footage added later was blown up from standard 8 to 16mm. The longer middle section was shot looking down into a sink using a prime f0.95 lens. The opening shot is on the 14th floor balcony of our flat in EC1; the letters “Dining Room” painted gold on black over a furriersʼ sign which I took down from a wall on a street near Southwark Bridge. The sign was filmed on a wooden easel which used to have a large blackboard on it. The blackboard had served as a menu which changed daily. At the base of the easel are organic vegetable boxes which had been delivered by the Pickles brothers; identical twins with long beards and matching blue overalls. The camera zooms back from a close up of the gold lettering followed by the standard 8mm footage of Sandra in the early days of the Dining Room when we still had a domestic sink unit, later replaced by three large catering sinks. The structure of the film is influenced to some extent by music which starts with an identifiable tune, goes through various improvisations and eventually returns to something recognisable again, such as To a Wild Rose by Sonny Rollins. The film was originally silent but later I added sound recorded next to the sink with a radio in the background which happened to be playing Dvorakʼs Slavonic Dances. The silent version was shown at the London Film Festival in 1992. The film is a trace. The artist Bill Burns described it as “a beautiful restaurant” and remembers his time working there as his “salad days”, another artist; Caroline Wilkinson, once said that going there was “like coming home”.


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