Johanna Lecklin - 'Story Cafe' 2004-

Image: 'Story Cafe' Tallinn 2007

‘Tell a story for a cup of coffee’ was the concept behind artist Johanna Lecklin’s live art and video installation piece ‘Story Cafe’. Lecklin started working on ‘Story Cafe’ 2004, during an Artsadmin artist residency programme in London organised by The Finnish Institute and FRAME. Lecklin hired a small commercial space, decorated it as a cafe and started serving visitors free cups of coffee or tea in exchange for their stories. She filmed and recorded the stories.

‘I’ve recorded the most horrific and tragic stories and on the other hand, very mundane, everyday incidents, fairy tales, religious tales and wild adventures. Many storytellers would present their unhappy childhoods or embarrassing stories in an anecdotal way, almost wanting to distance themselves from the experience.’

Lecklin has now set up her ‘Story Cafe’ seven times in different cities in five different countries.

‘I’m fascinated by how people’s cultural differences can be recognised in their storytelling and also their similarities. I am interested in the act and conventions of storytelling and the motions and expressions on the storyteller’s face as they feel their stories. People have a need to share their stories with strangers and that is an important component of the ‘Story Cafe’ project.’

After her first ‘Story Cafe’ in London, Lecklin has been invited to take part in several international exhibitions around Europe. 2006 she set ‘Story Cafe’ up at EV+A Exhibition in Limerick in Ireland, 2007 at Tallinn’s Biennial and 2008 Moscow’s Museum Night. 2008 her previously recorded stories were presented as a part of Due North group exhibition in BCA Gallery, Ballyvaughan in Ireland. In December 2008 ‘Story Cafe’ came back to its roots in London, when Lecklin set ‘Story Cafe’ up as a part of the Finnish Institute’s Christmas party.

Lecklin shows previously recorded ‘Story Cafe’ videos in her cafe space, and she has used some of the stories as material for short films.

‘I have written film scripts based on some of the stories, worked together with a film crew and actors and made them into short films. I am going to finish the ‘Story Cafe’ project with a collective exhibition where I show all the edited ‘Story Cafe’ videos and short films.’