Luna Thissen

The Dog Dinner v0.8

Canine & Homo Sapiens

17 jan 2023

Mediamatic has joined forces with academic and artist Eva Meijer to organise a dinner experience for dogs and their human companions. This is a report about our first internal beta test edition that took place on Tuesday January 17, 2023.


Multispecies dinner participants enjoying their food - Eva Meijer

Preparations of the first Multispecies Dinner
The first test edition of this dinner with dogs has been carefully prepared by Eva Meijer, chef Gino Marengo and the Mediamatic team. During multiple internal meetings we formulated the standpoints of the dinner and in what form it could possibly take shape. Questions that arose touched upon different topics. First, the subject of food brought up both practical and philosophical questions. What were we going to feed the dogs? What can they eat? But also, how will we approach the dog’s agency, or rather accountability for what they can and can not eat? Humans often enjoy the consumption of “guilty pleasures” in the form of foods and drinks that perhaps are not the healthiest additions to their diet. Should dogs be given a similar choice? 

Furthermore, the team thoroughly thought about how we could make the evening pleasurable not only for our human guests, but also for their dogs. Which brought up different questions, such as; do we need to plan a moment of familiarization or make a room available in case dogs feel overwhelmed? We also thought about the various elements that could contribute to a pleasant atmosphere throughout the evening. Are we keeping dogs on a leash or letting them roam freely from the beginning? Should there be a planned break in-between course? 

The outcome
The above mentioned questions and brainstorms have resulted in a  first edition that had a festive and communal atmosphere. The interaction between the different species was heartwarming. Both dogs and humans really enjoyed themselves and shared that the evening really made them feel closer to one another.

Upon arrival, the dogs and their human companions received a welcome drink and a vegetable pakora amuse-bouche prepared by our chef Gino Marengo. Meanwhile, the dogs and humans had the opportunity to get acquainted with each other. Which then influenced the decision-making about who was going to sit where at the dinner table. Since, the moment of acquaintance made evident which dogs got along well and which did not.

Following the egalitarian perspective of the dinner, we made the decision to lower the table and for both humans and dogs to sit on the ground. The evening unfolded with a carefully prepared 3-course vegan dinner and drink pairing. 

The team and Eva closely observed the behavior of both dogs and humans throughout the night, which has led to some useful insight that we will take into account during the organization of the next edition. 

One of the observations that really surprised the team was the calmness that occurred when everyone sat down at the table. The chaotic evening that some of the team members envisioned turned out very amiable. We learned that the planned break was not really necessary, but the “safe space” did turn out to be useful. In the end, we did not set-up a strict leash-policy, which resulted in some humans keeping their dog on a leash for a while, but the majority of the dogs were able to roam freely. 

Other observations from the evening focused on the dog's behavior. During the first course, the dogs seemed unsure about the fact that they could actually consume the food that was put in front of them on regular plates. They hesitantly awaited permission to start eating. After receiving encouragement from their human companion, the dogs enjoyed their meals with lots of enthusiasm. One human participant observed that their dog almost seemed relieved. As if, sharing a meal together was long overdue and it should have been taking place in this manner in the first place. Furthermore, multiple humans shared that they had tried feeding their dogs vegetables before and they often left them untouched. Therefore, they were quite surprised by their dogs’ eagerness in eating the vegetables that made up the vegan dishes.

For the next edition, we are further developing the table setting, drink pairing, but also thinking about the etiquettes that remain or perhaps should be developed for these types of dinners. Or is this still a very anthropocentric way of approaching multispecies interaction?