UCCA Beijing

“Drifting Realities: The Archipelago of Food Discourses” Series Session 6
Panel Talk | The Public Kitchen: Culinary Collaboration as a Metaphor for Collective Practice


Location:  Online
Language:  Chinese / English with Chinese translation

The panel discussion for “Drifting Realities: The Archipelago of Food Discourses” Series Session 6 will focus on the meaning of the “public kitchen” as a site, as well as the cultural enlightenment that can be shared with people through the practices that take place within. The term “public kitchen” has two different meanings in the context of Chinese language: on the one hand, it refers to soup kitchens, charity kitchens set up by governments, civil organizations, or religious institutions. Historical examples include imarets, large public soup kitchens and multi-purpose charity centers common in the Ottoman Empire, xiangjichu (Kitchen of the Fragrant Land), the dining halls of Buddhist temples; the government-run “Porridge Factories” of the Ming and Qing dynasties; or even the canteens of People’s Communes. Yet public kitchen can also refer to a shared kitchen where people may freely access basic resources, kitchenware, and a space for cooking—a place of collaboration and sharing. In the public kitchen, the distribution of food is regarded as an act of benevolence. People meet, prepare, and share meals, communicate and coexist with others, occupying and sharing space while cooking together.

Inspired by these meanings of “public kitchen,” for this panel talk we are privileged to invite Renan Laru-an, Elia Nurvista, Rania Ho, and Mao Chenyu—curators, researchers and artists from different areas all over the world—as our guests. Whether as initatiors, operators, or collaborators (or indeed more than one of these roles), they are at the center of communtities and organizations, while also engaging in their own artistic or cultural practices related to the topic of food. Elia Nurvista, an artist as well as founder of the Bakudapan Food Study Group, will discuss the kitchen as a site for de-institutionalization, and how to bring about new ideas outside of established knowledge systems. Artist Rania Ho will talk about her “Survival Project” and “Kitchen Project,” a collaboration with Manchester experimental theater company Quarantine. She will also touch upon the possibilities of collective creation as proposed by her space Wujin, a community space that invites the public to serve as guest bartenders, as well as her personal practice as co-founder of Beijing art space Arrow factory. Curator and researcher Renan Laru-an emphasizes his previous research and exhibition projects, for example the exhibition “OK. Food” at OK.Video Indonesia Media Arts Festival (2017), which he co-curated with Julia Sarisetiati. He focuses on analysing how food and plants are characterized as “wild” things in museums and other spaces of cultural preservation, serving as metaphors for pestilence and illness, and their inherent feral potency. Artist Mao Chenyu will talk about the agricultural issues involved in his exhibition series “Grain God Narrative,” present on the current state of agriculture, and discuss the relationship between agricultural production and systems of consumption through the concept of “Pinduoduo politics,” based on online trends and current realities.


14:30–14:40  Introduction

14:40–15:00  Elia Nurvista 

Kitchen: A Messy Dirty Place Where Recipes are Contested

15:00–15:35  Renan Laru-an

The Museum and Its Real Wild Creatures

15:35–15:55  Rania Ho

Recipes for Jam and Survival

15:55–16:20  Mao Chenyu

Pinduoduo Politics: Digital Fun in Chinese Agriculture

16:20–16:45  Discussion and Q&A


Renan Laru-an (Curator, Researcher, Public Engagement and Artistic Formation Coordinator of PCAN)

Renan Laru-an (b. 1989, Sultan Kudarat, Philippines) is a researcher, a curator and the Public Engagement and Artistic Formation Coordinator at the Philippine Contemporary Art Network (PCAN). Between 2012 and 2015, he directed the Philippines-based DiscLab | Research and Criticism, a multidisciplinary platform and “virtual” organisation for critical writing, theory, discursive activities, and research on Philippine contemporary art as well as visual and network culture.

In his research-oriented curatorial work, Laru-an studies “insufficient” and “subtracted” images and subjects at the juncture of development and integration projects through long-term inquiries, such as Herding Islands, Rats and the Anthropocene (2015), Lightning Studies: Centre for the Translation of Constraints, Conflicts and Contaminations (CTCCCs) (2016), and The Artist and the Social Dreamer (2017). He has also (co-)curated the 6th Singapore Biennale, “Every Step in the Right Direction” (2019); the 8th OK. Video – Indonesia Media Arts Festival (Jakarta, 2017); and other recent exhibitions, including “A Tripoli Agreement” (Sharjah Art Foundation, 2018); “An Ecological, The Obligatory” (Vargas Museum, Quezon City, Philippines, 2017); “From Bandung to Berlin: If all of the moons aligned” (with Brigitta Isabella, SAVVY Contemporary, Berlin, 2016); and “Lightning Studies: CTCCCs presents PASÁ PAS” (TPAM, Yokohama, 2018 and Lopez Museum and Library, Manila 2016).

With support from the Foundation for Arts Initiatives and National Commission for Culture and the Arts, he is conducting comparative research on culture-based and community-oriented publications that operated with the vision of fostering “dialogues between Muslims and non-Muslims,” initiated by two cohorts of American missionaries after the Japanese occupation of the Philippines and at the height of ethno-religious conflict in Mindanao. He is a recipient of various fellowships, grants, and residencies from numerous institutions. Laru-an holds a degree in psychology from the University of the Philippines, Diliman.

Elia Nurvista (Artist, Initiator of Bakudapan Food Study Group)

Elia Nurvista (b. 1983) is an artist based in Yogyakarta, Indonesia. She obtained her BFA in visual arts from Indonesia Institute of Fine Art. Her artistic practice intersects with the boundaries between art and social research, and she is keen to further pursue experiments on developing the possible forms of these two fields and pushing their limits. Nurvista is interested in creating and engaging with projects regarded as critical, leading us to imagine the world we desire. Through these approaches, she attempts to create open dialogues in order to generate social negotiation over existing values. Many of her works concern food, her interest in which is related to issues arising as a result of cooking and eating. Through her observations, these seemingly mundane acts become historicized and recognized as sites of political conflict. At times, they are simply drawn as personal memories.

In 2015, Elia Nurvista initiated Bakudapan, an anthropological food study group based in Yogyakarta which positions food as an entry point for research on issues in the fields of economics, labor, politics, gender, and art. Through this platform, the group experiments with various artistic mediums, such as installation, performance, simulation, and video, and then adopts them as tools and methodologies for research.

Elia Nurvista has previously participated in numerous exhibitions and programs including: “Früchtlinge” (Künstlerhaus Bethanien, Berlin, 2019); “How Little You Know About Me” (National Museum of Modern Contemporary Art, Seoul, Korea, 2018); OK. Video Ruangrupa “OpenLAB” residency program (Jakarta, Indonesia, 2017); the “Politics of Food” Residency Program (Delfina Foundation, London, UK, 2014); “Adiboga Wonoasri, an Experimental Kitchen and Pop-up Restaurant” (Kedai Kebun Forum, Yogyakarta, Indonesia, 2013); and the Jakarta Biennale (2013).

Rania Ho (Artist, Co-founder of Arrow Factory)

Rania Ho is a multidisciplinary artist working in installation and performance. Her works employ a humorous, unexpected approach to everyday objects and situations as a means of interrogating broader social or cultural concerns. Ho received her BA in Theater Arts from UCLA and a master’s degree from the Interactive Telecommunications Program (ITP) at New York University. She lives and works in Beijing and San Francisco.

Ho has participated in solo and group exhibitions throughout Asia, Europe and the United States, including at the Luggage Store Gallery, SF (2018); Capsule Gallery, Shanghai (2017); CASS Sculpture Foundation, UK (2016); BANK, Shanghai (2014); Meta Gallery, Shanghai (2015); Observation Society, Guangzhou (2013); St Andrews Museum, Fife, UK (2013); Shanghai Gallery of Art, Shanghai (2011); Collective Gallery, Edinburgh (2011); Platform China, Beijing (2010); San-Art, Ho Chi Minh City (2010); Long March Space, Beijing (2008); The thirteenth International Symposium of Electronic Art (ISEA)/Zero One Festival, San Jose (2006); and the 2nd Guangzhou Triennial, Guangzhou (2005). Ho is a co-founder of Arrow Factory, one of the longest-standing, independently run alternative art spaces in Beijing, which operated in a storefront from March 2008 to September 2019.

Mao Chenyu (Artist)

Born in 1976 in Hunan Province, Chenyu Mao is an artist who currently lives and works in Shanghai. He studied Inorganic Nonmetallic Materials at School of Materials Science and Engineering, Tongji University. In 2003 he started his “Paddy Film” project, and has been doing long-term field work in rice-farming areas of Hunan, Hubei, and Guizhou provinces since. In this project he focused on and recorded the deformation of agricultural society, and eventually founded the “Paddy Film Farm,” an actual farm. As a different medium expressing the “Paddy Film Decade Literature Exhibiton,” the farm’s practice is based on ecological issues, land policy, and cultural terrain, concentrating on the politics of eating and other related proposals. In 2015, Mao shifted the focus of his film into a new project, “Elaphurus Davidianus University.” Through self-creating culture and self-building knowledge, it re-explores the cognitive domain of institutionalisation and consolidation in Chinese rural society, and rediscovers and organises a narrative of contemporary rural society. The project relates to mobility between country and city, capital and media culture, identity politics and geological sites, and how aesthetics shape the configuration of space, aiming to mold future plans for these areas. In 2016, Mao founded the project “Grain God Narrative,” responding to conflict between between country and city, wilderness and domestication, superstitution and knowledge, using a grain coupon to ask his questions: How do the gifts sent out in history acquire the approach of recycling? How to send out gifts and then leave? Is selfless giving possible? “Grain God Narrative” itself is like an anthropological field study project, exploring the conditions and related terrains and elements coming up with the topic. 

His solo exhibitions and selected group exhibitions include: “The Deficit Faction” (Long March Space, Beijing, 2019); “Tracing the Mushroom at the End of the World” (Taikang Space, Beijing, 2019); “Why Not Ask Again?” (Power Station of Art, Shanghai, 2016); “Pulse Reaction II: Discussions on Reality and Realism” (Times Art Museum, Guangzhou, 2016); “Public Spirits” (Center for Contemporary Art Ujazdowski Castle, Warsaw, 2016); and “Time Test: International Video Art Research Exhibition” (The Art Museum of China Central Academy of Fine, Beijing, 2016). His curatorial projects include: “Grain God Narrative III” (Xitang Contemporary Art Museum, Beijing, 2019); “The Grammar of Building – Grain God Narrative II” (Shenzhen University Art Museum, Shenzhen, 2017); “Grain God Narrative” (Power Station of Art, Swatch Art Peace Hotel, Shanghai, 2016); “Nuo Opera: Space-sweeping” (Power Station of Art, Shanghai, 2016), and more.


Yan Fang (Curator of Public Programs, UCCA)

Yan Fang is an art critic and curator of public programs at UCCA Center for Contemporary Art. She graduated from University of Paris I Pantheon-Sorbonne with a Master’s degree in History of Art: History of Art and Philosophy, and has previously worked at the Musée national d'Art moderne/Centre Pompidou.