JOUY-EN-JOSAS, France — Pigs ears, smoked udders or veal lungs? French archaeologists this week begin examining the remains of an open-air banquet shovelled underground almost 30 years ago as an art performance.
Supervised by the creme-de-la-creme of French archaeology, a bunch of dusty diggers are unearthing the leftovers from a work now known as "Lunch Under The Grass" -- a meal for 80 in sumptuous gardens south of Paris where the star course was offal.
On April 23, 1983, Swiss artist Daniel Spoerri, one of the central figures of post-war European art, invited dozens of artists, gallery-owners, critics and friends for a lunch held by a 40-metre (-yard) long trench.
The meal over, the 80-odd participants trundled tables laden with plates, glasses and leftover tripe into the trench to be buried for posterity.
"This is what you could call garbage archaeology," one of France's top archaeologists, Jean-Paul Demoule, told AFP, referring to schemes under way across the world to examine society by perusing its rubbish.
"What will these remains tell us about the way artists lived in the 1980s, what will they say about our society?" Demoule, who is leading the project and is former head of the National Institute of Preventive Archaeological Research (INRAP), asked.
Spoerri himself was one of the founders of the 1960s New Realism movement, artists active in the post World War II boom years who drew their inspiration and drive from the thriving consumerism of industrial society.
Born in Romania and now living in Austria, Spoerri became best known for his so-called "snare" pictures, fixing a group of objects or the remains of a meal left haphazardly on a horizontal board, and then hanging them vertically on a wall.
"I wanted this meal to be bourgeois, in pinks and lilac," the 80-year-old artist said at the digging site. "I'd brought cloth tablecloths, there were vases of flowers."
Working on a tiny portion of the old trench, archaeologists so far have scraped away plates and glasses, including a plastic goblet, but the tablecloth has been eaten by time and the flowers disintegrated into pollen.
The remains are to be analysed by a dozen specialist laboratories and the parts of the trench already dug up will be re-filled again for posterity.
"In 20, 30 or 50 years, science will have made new inroads and archaeologists will be able to take a new improved peek at all this," Demoule said.
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