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March 9, 2010
by Jessica Sheridan Assoc. AIA LEED AP

I recently participated in what is called “Dark Dining,” an art performance/dining experience where individuals are blindfolded while served a four-course meal. Billed as “participatory art events revolving around sensory awareness, fine food, and eating,” the experience was fascinating because it not only heightened my senses when it came to food — it also elevated my awareness of space.

*Spoiler Alert* The event began when my friend (and fellow designer) and I arrived at the restaurant. We were given blindfolds outside and were led into the space clutching the shoulders of an escort. When we sat down, we could feel the size of the table and hear and feel how close we were to each other, but it wasn’t until all of the diners were instructed to bite into a crunchy crostini at once that we understood the scale of the room, the height of the ceiling, and the number of people in the restaurant. Throughout the meal, besides getting used to eating with my fingers without knowing what I was grabbing and trying to hold a conversation without tuning into others’, periodically musicians performed, and dancers moved around the diners. Each portion of the event provided a new and different understanding of the room.

Before I experienced the meal, I expected that the event would heighten my sense of taste more than anything. I anticipated spilling food (which, remarkably, was not an issue); I thought I would be a bit frightened without my sight; but overall, I did not think the experience would be much more than a fun evening. In actuality, however, it changed my understanding of sound, my awareness of proximity, and my overall sense of space.

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