With 515 and counting, Texas has executed the most prisoners since the death penalty was reinstated in the U.S in 1976. Up until 2011, the state gave the condemned inmates the opportunity to request a customized final meal. Following a lavish request by a prisoner, and his ultimate refusal to eat it, Texas abolished the “last meal” tradition. Up until that point, however, the Texas Department of Criminal Justice (TDCJ) made the details of the 310 meals known to the public.
In their ongoing project Final Meals, the collaborative Lucky Pierre has been performing and filming people eating these meal requests. In the early stages of the work, Lucky Pierre members prepared and ate the meals, and later on cooked them for others. In its current iteration, they create a singular and contemplative performance for one, as they ask a volunteer to sit with a meal prepared for them for 25 minutes while being filmed from above. They choose to either eat the food or not. The volunteers are later invited to have a communal dinner, while watching and discussing the growing archive of video footage of the performances.
By setting up this intimate configuration where a free person is faced with sitting with the final request of an individual whose death was sanctioned by the state, Lucky Pierre creates a living monument for the deceased. The collaborative takes the somewhat boastful act of the TDCJ of publicizing the meal requests, and turns it into a moving archive of portraits that display not only the personal preferences of the condemned, but also glimpses into aspects of the life they once lived.
Lucky Pierre, founded in 1996, is a Chicago-based collaborative group working in writing, performance, and visual forms. Lucky Pierre creates structures for engagement with various publics. In these forms, they explore complex issues and ideas (political, aesthetic, social) in ways that accommodate a wide range of experience, styles and approaches. The open structure allows collaborators and viewers to define their own participation; helping to create the meaning, and determine the final form and outcome of the work.