UCCA Beijing

Drifting Realities: The Archipelago of Food Discourses

2020.8.15 - 2020.11.20

Language:  Chinese / English with Chinese translation

“Drifting Realities” is a new annual platform for public programs initiated by UCCA Center for Contemporary Art. As the framework for a series of ongoing public programs including lectures, panel talks, performances, workshops, and cinema arts, each edition of “Drifting Realities” will last for three months, over the course of which artists, theorists, and cultural practitioners are invited to explore, present, and discuss their areas of expertise through sessions both online and on site (in accordance with ongoing health and safety conditions)

In an era of uncertainty and instability, “Drifting Realities” aims to pick up signals both small and large transmitted from our constantly changing world—where social phenomena constantly intersect with political and economic issues, continually reshaping our perception and knowledge of the world, leading to new observations and paths for creative thinking. Past paradigms are becoming invalid, losing their capacity to focus and define the reality of our surroundings. We hope the knowledge produced by “Drifting Realities” may serve as an atlas for our current surroundings, its content being constantly updated, modified, and redrawn as new areas continue to be explored. While our reflections, thoughts, and actions, may act as a force to change the world, at the same time, we may never be able to completely uncover, comprehend, and define the unknown.

The first edition of the program, “Drifting Realities: The Archipelago of Food Discourses” runs from August to October 2020, and starts off from a topic close to daily life, food. This is presented through the frame of the archipelago, inspired by Benedict Anderson’s analysis of nationalism in Imagined Communities, in which the complexity and heterogeneity in the construction of national memories and identities throughout the Indonesian archipelago is revealed. Here, we use the term as a metaphor to refer to an ambiguous, decentralized and deterritorialized realm of diverse discourses about food-related issues, as well as their intrinsic historical, cultural and politico-economic connotations. The program’s organization follows the methodology and the structural description of the process of providing and transforming food in Jack Goody’s work Cooking, Cuisine and Class: A Study in Comparative Sociology—production (growing/farm), distribution (allocating/storing, granary/market), preparation (cooking/kitchen), consumption (eating, table) and disposal (clearing up/scullery). Issues related to these five layers will be presented communally, discussed and connected from multiple perspectives: our voyage departs from the soil under our feet, by considering the land and planting as a community practice and a methodology of creation, before moving to the anthropological study of the circulation of food and customs around the world; the political and economic thinking brought about by dietary habits through issues of migration and identity, from food and rituals in religious sacrifice to food as representation in iconographic analysis and its mind-body problem; culinary collaboration in public kitchens as potential paradigm for collective cultural practice; food as a hidden ingredient in archeological research; as well as examining memory and housework from the perspective of gender. The program attempts to return to fundamental layers of thinking about our lives, grounded in the ordinariness and everyday qualities of food, encouraging interaction and communication between artist, curators, and scholars.

“Drifting Realities: The Archipelago of Food Discourses” includes panel talks and workshops both online and on site at UCCA, and will explore different online formats through the parallel publishing project Cookbook of the Pandemic Year. Programming will focus on the humanistic meanings of sharing, hospitality, intimacy, acceptance, and caring as represented by food, and position the museum as a collective public kitchen and a spiritual space for communion—a place that encourages community interaction, discussion, participation, and sharing­—basic daily experiences that allow for people to meet and connect with others.


Participants (full list to be confirmed):

Aslı Çavuşoğlu, The Center for Genomic Gastronomy, Doreen Chan, Peter Chan,  Chen Xiaoyang, Po-Chih Huang, Rania Ho, Renan Laru-an, Fang Lu and Arie Kishon, Tayeba Begum Lipi and Mahbubur Rahman, Liu Shiyuan, Antje Majewski, Mao Chenyu, Lo Lai Lai Natalie, Elia Nurvista, Xu Tan, Wu Jianru, Ran Zhang, and more.

Cookbook of the Pandemic Year

As a parallel program to the “Drifting Realities: The Archipelago of Food Discourses” event series, Cookbook of the Pandemic Year is a publication project that will take both online and printed form. The cookbook is a creative project that aims to foster new forms of solidarity and collaboration by inviting artists to remotely participate in the creation of “recipes,” through which artistic concepts are presented and shared. Each recipe in the publications bears the mark of an artist, glancing sideways at their perception of our new reality, creating a document of an imagined archipelago’s foodways. As an ongoing project, the cookbook will be first published and updated online, before being printed as a limited edition artist-cookbook.

The publication will be launched and published weekly online from August 20, 2020 onwards.



“Drifting Realities: The Archipelago of Food Discourses” and its parallel publication project Cookbook of Pandemic Year is initiated and curated by Yan Fang, curator of public programs at UCCA.