“Guess Who’s Coming to Dinner”: Food and Hospitality in Contemporary Art and Exhibitions in Asia and Beyond
In recent times there has been a growing artistic and curatorial interest in the conjunction of food and art. The revival of the alimentary in art has coincided with a heightened awareness of the ethics of hospitality that underlie the relational dynamics of art and curatorial practice and its capacity to engender forms of participation, dialogue and social engagement. Importantly, the emergence of contemporary art from Asia onto the global stage has expanded the range of alimentary practice across new sensory and semiotic terrains, as well as cultural and geographic territories. Indeed, it is more than just a passing coincidence that food has been a recurring motif in contemporary art in and from Asia, one anchored in the popular valorization of the alimentary as a vital ingredient of sociality and as a quotidian index of identity (variously coded in cultural, gendered and religious ways) in a region deeply marked by multiple colonial and postcolonial histories, and by contemporary processes of globalization. Moreover, there has been a growing recognition of the urgency of attending to the complexities of hospitality in art and curating and their embeddedness in specific local histories, contexts and politics.
This presentation seeks to consider the idea of hospitality in art and exhibition-making through a critical survey of the various uses and representation of food in contemporary art and exhibitions in Asia and beyond. In particular, it offers an analysis of the ethics of hospitality in art and curating and the ways in which it enables a rethinking of not just the tensile connection between aesthetics and politics, but also the imbrication of the political with what we have come to call “the curatorial”. It argues, moreover, for the curatorial – as a mode of inquiry and a form of knowledge and practice – to be attuned to the specificities of local histories and geographies in order to set the table and the stage for a more complex understanding of the performative, relational and sensuous processes of the alimentary in art, its relation to the everyday and its entanglement in the political economy of survival in a globalizing world.
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