Guess who's coming to dinner (or the last supper). Alma Leiva. February 2019. Elsewhere Museum, greensboro, NC. Video documentation of curated dinner in collaboration with Jennida Chase and Hassan Pitts. 9 min 2 secs. Inkjet prints, embroidery, and poetry on museum collection fabric; ongoing collection of stories. 264” x 138” in. Live music performance in collaboration with Joshua Marquez.
QR code detail.
Interactive Greensboro, NC. Map image.2019.
Guess who’s coming to dinner (or the last supper) is a research-based interdisciplinary project that includes interactive, performance, and sensory elements. Inspired by Leiva’s grandmother who worked in a Florida tomato field in the 1980’s, this project is a response to the rising deportations of food industry workers in North Carolina. The project activates Elsewhere’s dining space through a tablecloth, web platform, poetry, a dinner event, and experimental sound performance. Guess Who encourages awareness about migration and labor through personal stories, pertinent statistics, and poetry that humanize this vulnerable demographic.
Through public engagement, Leiva facilitates a platform to bring this difficult conversation to the “table:” A concept she recalls in the title after Stanley Kramer’s 1967 film. Also recalling the table in Leonardo Da Vinci’s Last Supper painting, the project includes a hand-made tablecloth that pairs traditional “women crafts,” or the embroidery using inherited thread, with QR code technology. In the center, a printed, embroidered Greensboro map that resembles a living organism offers interactivity that takes participants to relevant information. On both ends, the tablecloth presents a split North Carolina state map with a poem by Leiva (translated by Walter Krochmal), dedicated to the workers in Spanish and English. In collaboration with local immigrant organization FaithAction, Leiva expands the conversation beyond the event’s inauguration by incorporating an expanding web platform that continuously features regional migrant workers’ personal stories.
In order to encourage engagement and critical thought, the artist served dishes during her opening exhibition using locally grown produce in collaboration with local artist Jennida Chase and videographer Hassan Pitts. The resulting food stains on the tablecloth become a growing archive of use. To add another layer, a responsive live experimental sound performance by composer Joshua Marquez played throughout the project’s inauguration. As a take-away memento, the artist handed custom printed napkins to the public.
"Amid the clinking of glasses and low hum of diners’ chatter, a waiter carries a salad bowl through a restaurant. This is not just a bowl of greens—these spinach leaves and romaine hearts represent a vast network of labor: from farmers planting the seeds and farmworkers harvesting the greens, to drivers trucking them across state lines, and kitchen staff washing them, and many layers in between.
Immigrants are deeply involved in this complex journey from seed to plate. They are an essential link in the chain of our food system, and are an indelible part of rural America, contributing to the economic and cultural fabric of these communities. It’s hard to picture our food system without them."
-Jessica Kurn, Immigration and the food system, www.farmaid.org
"America is now at war with the immigrant hands that feed us. Communities and states across the country are enacting a patchwork of highly restrictive laws that will only drive undocumented immigrants further underground and make them even more exploitable by the businesses that employ them and the criminals who prey on them. Immigrant women face the additional danger of sexual assault and rape, crimes they often are afraid to report to police because it could lead to deportation.
Not only is this war costing taxpayers many billions, it is eroding wage and workplace protections for U.S. workers as well, especially for low-skilled workers, as businesses find they can exploit immigrant labor with virtual impunity.
U.S. immigration policy has not kept pace with these challenges. Border security has been greatly enhanced. But the reality is that about 11 million people are now living and working in the U.S. without documentation. Millions of them are raising U.S.-born children. Deporting all of these immigrants, according to one recent study, would leave a $2.6 trillion hole in the U.S. economy over the next decade. That does not include the billions of dollars that would be required to enforce such a policy. And it does not take into account the massive human rights violations that would inevitably occur.
'...The migrants have no lobby. Only an enlightened, aroused and perhaps angered public opinion can do anything about the migrants... They do not have the strength to influence legislation.'
'...Congress must address this crisis in a comprehensive way — a way that recognizes the contributions of these immigrants to our country and our fundamental values of fairness and dignity.' "
Southern Poverty Law center