Appetite for Construction (2016) was the final project in a series of works developed for the Contemporary Art Gallery, Vancouver over two years looking at food culture as a metaphor for displacement. The other projects were: Preservation (2015) and Temporary Spaces, Edible Places: Vancouver (2015).
Working closely with various local activists and community members Appetite for Construction explored the food politics within Vancouver city as both evidence of and as a metaphor for urban displacement through gentrification.
Over September and October 2016 I was based out of an offsite temporary space, the former Park Lock Dim Sum/Seafood Restaurant on the second floor of 544 Main Street in Chinatown. From this location I initiated a food mapping installation developed via a series of public events, workshops and discussions centered on this disused space, the last original building standing on the corner of Main and Keefer.
Participants were invited to contribute items that represented the changing urban fabric of the Chinatown/DTES area through its food culture. Participant’s items were vacuum bagged and used to create a tile in the construction of a temporary structure within the Chinatown space. The numerous vacuum bags created a patchwork surface representing the various community members’ insights into local food culture and gentrification. Items ranged from: menus from new upmarket establishments; packaging from iconic restaurants of the area, dried food from the prevalent Chinese herbal stores in the area, soup kitchen fliers, info on urban farming etc. Visitors also added to a large scale collaborative mapping that formed the tablecloth for the final event.
The project culminated in a dinner and conversation event showcasing participants’ vacuum bags in an immersive installation and serving dim sum (yum cha) inside, as a homage to the building’s history as an iconic dim sum restaurant. The dialogue unfolded as the meal was eaten, focussing on discussions about the changing urban fabric of Chinatown/DTES.
This project is assisted by the Australian Government through the Australia Council for the Arts, its arts funding and advisory body. Special thanks to Shaun Dacey and the rest of the CAG staff.