Diplomacy by Dinner Toast

January 10, 1984: Premier Zhao Zyiang proposes a seven-hundredword-toast to the American-Chinese friendship which is seen asthe basis for a nuclear-cooperation treaty established betweenthe two nations. Looking back, the custom of toasting has alwaysplayed and still plays a major role in negotiation processes andsignaling the warming of relationships between nations.

This project investigates the ritual of toasting, as one ofhumankind‘s oldest traditions and a gesture that is repeated athousand times a day in many places everywhere around the world.Why, exactly, do we take a moment to clink glasses before wedrink? It is an intimate moment, filling the void of camaraderie thatopened up when cultures stopped drinking from a single vessel. Acustom that establishes, honors and celebrates connection. In themoment of encounter, the drinking vessel embodies the medium ofcommunication. It defines fundamental motifs of a culture, sinceits appearance is depending on geography, traditions and the technologyat hand when it originated.

Within the political context, the toast is even much more than that– it is a strategic instrument in the art and practice of conductingnegotiations, in combining or defending divergent positions toreach a beneficial outcome. Through specific gestures and actions,it allows one to express predominance, consent, discrepancy withoutsaying a single word. Diplomacy by clinking glasses.

The performative action looks at this strategic game of negotiatingthrough the silent interaction with various objects that challengethe ritual of filling the glass, drinking and, in the end, clinkingglasses to signal a „reached agreement“.