Rhonda Weppler / Trevor Mahovsky

The Guest's Shadow

paper, tape, LED lights, picnic blanket, metal, magnets
Commissioned by ArtworxTO

Picnics have been a common subject in art, as a symbol of bucolic fantasy, and as an example of a kind of community formed through salon-style gatherings. The Guest’s Shadow is an itinerant and ever-evolving installation that invests the intimate, offhand and improvisational format of a picnic with something of the more broadly communal, parodic and carnivalesque spirit of lantern festivals, such as Basel’s Fasnacht.

The Guest’s Shadow installations appear to be picnics left out in the dark of night, made dream-like by virtue of a gentle light emitting from the objects laid out on the gingham cloth. The food and drink in the picnic is a collection of handmade paper lanterns, produced by the artists by photographing food items, then printing and assembling the digital printouts of the images as three dimensional shapes which hold reusable led lights.

Staged in various parks and other publicly accessible locations across Toronto in 2021 and 2022, the picnic grew in size with each event, as the result of an economy of copying, sharing and remaking virtual foods. During each event, visitors could add a lantern to the blanket, while taking a kit home to make their own copy of the same lantern, meaning that a double of the picnic exists unseen, dispersed in a cloud-like form. Anyone could also submit a recipe to the project, which the artists cooked, photographed, and transformed into a lantern, resulting in an unruly, hodgepodge of lanterns by the final event. Lantern files can be downloaded at theguestsshadow.com and made by anyone.