Too Sweet

February 25, 2011

A.I.R. artist Ana Prvacki shares her research and reflections on hospitality and manners in this weekly blog. Her project, Greeting Committee, will be presented at the Hammer from April 7 through 10.


By Ana Prvacki

I grew up with a possibly semi fictional story about multicultural manners and misunderstanding. My Romanian mother married my Serbian father and moved to Yugoslavia in 1975. There was a lot of curiosity about her arrival, family and neighbors were all dying to meet her, a young foreigner from the land of gypsies, vampires and Ceausescu, what could be more fun over coffee! Apparently they knew she was pretty but also possibly a thief, or at least very hungry and wild. And when she finally arrives she is tiny, does not speak a word of Serbian and is understandably confused by her welcoming committee standing expectantly in the doorway. Someone is holding a tray to her. She has not been informed that it contains a jar of jam like substance called ”slatko”, literally translated as “sweet”, and it is indeed sweet, a kind of honey jam with sugar that makes the roof of your mouth vibrate. Next to it is a glass with teaspoons and a few glasses of water, the protocol being to have a spoon (or less) of the jam followed by a glass of water and then enter the household, with sweetness and welcome in ones mouth. My mother, unfamiliar with the custom and eager to make a good impression proceeds to consume the entire jar, one spoon after the other, with mmmmm’s trying to sound and look delighted like any good guest should. Half way though the jar her hosts are in awe, amazed, worried, nodding to each other, she really must be hungry, they have it hard in Romania, what good sweet we make… It is unclear what happened next and I wonder if anyone tried to stop her, or if they brought out another jar. I will ask her, but I doubt she remembers clearly in her sweet delirium.


Einstein thought the most important question facing humanity should be, “Is the universe a friendly place?” and Kurt Vonnegut asked that we practice “A little less love, and a little more common decency." Greeting Committee, by Ana Prvacki, considers these ideas by magnifying and zooming in on the protocols and customs of basic hospitality routines, such as greetings, salutations and welcoming. For her project at the Hammer, visitors are invited to observe or participate in interventions encouraging gestures of welcoming in the Wilshire lobby Thursday, April 7 through Sunday, April 10 from 12-4pm each day.