Archive:Place SettingsJune 18 – August 15, 2021

Place Settings

June 18 – August 15, 2021

Place Settings: Part I
Morris Lum, Karen Tam in collaboration with Tea Base, and Reel Asian
June 18 – August 15, 2021

Place Settings: Part II will launch Spring 2022 with projects by jes sachse, Reza Nik, Farrah Miranda and Suzanne Morrissette with Alia Weston, Lisa Myers, and Ayumi Goto

Curated by Noa Bronstein
Curatorial Assistance by Petrina Ng


Place Settings is a large-scale, durational project that considers how food functions to connect and disrupt. Focusing specifically on the intersections of food, public space, and architecture, Place Settings points to formal and informal structures that offer forms of nourishment, be they physical, emotional, social, or political.

Tending to concerns ranging from food sovereignty to community building, Place Settings brings together a series of critically and socio-politically engaged projects integrated into various public sites across Toronto. At the core of this project is the idea that the means by which food is produced, distributed, and consumed directly relates to wider issues of social injustice, unchecked corporate interests, climate change, and the overwhelming depletion of natural resources on a global scale. At the same time, the ways that individuals and communities make purposeful decisions about how to cultivate and share food reveals moments and movements of self-determination, reciprocity, and interdependence.

Place Settings addresses these wide-ranging concerns through installations and programs, engaging with systems of food distribution and consumption through their spatial forms. Each of the artists within this project reflects on how relationships to food are often informed by public or shared space. The architectures of food become sites of negotiation, and each artist’s work creates an opportunity to interrogate the infrastructures that produce and circulate what we eat.

Like food itself, this project is inseparable from the wider ecology in which it is produced. Place Settings finds itself situated within a spectrum of food-focused arts programming in Toronto and beyond; recognizing the shared questions and urgencies of these varying programs remains central to this project. Many people have helped bring food and art together and this project identifies itself as being in dialogue and conceptual collaboration with these ongoing efforts.

The multiple points of engagement realized through Place Settings are intended to speculate on the potentials of public sharing and social transformation at the centre of food-focused arts programming. Through artistic practice and critical inquiry, this project is a sustained exploration of the possibilities that might emerge when we resist the idea that food is purely transactional and instead consider the complex entanglements of space and sustenance.

In keeping with an ethos of sharing what’s on our plate, a portion of the project budget has been donated to Black Creek Community Farm.

Place Settings: Part I

Remembering the Forestview

photograph depicting installation view of artist Morris Lum's large scale billboard located on the intersection of Spadina Ave. and Sullivan St. in Toronto. It features the interior of the Forestview Chinese Restaurant (2011), which closed in 2014. The image is wide-angle shot depicting a section of the restaurant, with three separately placed tables covered in white tablecloth with various dinnerware on top, accompanied by multiple red chairs. The floor is covered with a decorative pattern of bright, red circles. There is a floor-to-ceiling length "accordion-type" door partition, red in colour, that is pushed all the way back towards the wall, keeping the space and therefore the view of the rest of the restaurant visible. The wall is covered in bright red curtain, embroidered/adorned with dragon symbols and Chinese lettering. On the left wall is a wide window with bright light streaming through and illuminating the space.

Installation documentation by Toni Hafkenschied.


Location: Billboard at Spadina Ave. and Sullivan St.
Dates: June 14 – July 25, 2021

Project Description

Morris Lum’s billboard project features the interior of the Forestview Chinese Restaurant (2011), which closed in 2014. Operating as a memorial of sorts, Lum’s image signals Chinatown’s changing landscape as it shifts and adapts to external gentrifying forces. Turning this space inside out and displaying it so publicly also speaks to Lum’s ongoing interest in acknowledging sites that feed us socially and nutritionally.


About the Artist

Morris Lum is a Trinidadian born photographer/artist whose work explores the hybrid nature of the Chinese-Canadian community through photography, form and documentary practices. His work also examines the ways in which Chinese history is represented in the media and archival material. Morris’ work has been exhibited and screened across Canada and the United States.


KAREN TAM in partnership with Tea Base
Seeds for the Future, Seeds for Now

Karen Tam’s street-level billboard displaying a group of illustrated foliage as well as several photographs of Tam’s grandmother. There is a large wooden planter below the billboard


Locations: Artscape Youngplace, 180 Shaw St. and 222 Spadina Ave.

Dates: June 18, 2021 – ongoing

Project Description

Karen Tam’s project includes a billboard image at Artscape Youngplace coupled with a planter box in which she has grown from seed to various Chinese vegetables and herbs. The billboard brings together images of Tam’s grandmother on her thriving balcony garden, various drawings by Tam of the veggies grown here and a drawn reinterpretation of a certificate of horticultural merit awarded to Tam’s grandmother in 2008 for her community plot. The project’s second location includes a garden of herbs and vegetables grown and cared for by Tea Base using Tam’s seeds. Structures like planter boxes and balcony gardens outpace their humble forms, more immediately connecting us to fresh food and to a sense of community when shared. These specific planters and their collaborative tending offer a further reflection on the importance of access to culturally specific foods, locally grown produce and the networks of care that often develop around these unassuming structures.


About the Artists:

Karen Tam is a Montréal-based artist whose research focuses on the constructions and imaginations of ‘ethnic’ spaces through installations in which she recreates Chinese restaurants, karaoke lounges, opium dens, curio shops and other sites of cultural encounters. She has exhibited her work and participated in residencies in North America, Europe, and China, and has received grants and fellowships from the Canada Council for the Arts, Conseil des arts du Québec, and Social Sciences & Humanities Research Council of Canada. Tam was a finalist for the 2017 Prix Louis-Comtois, a finalist for the 2016 Prix en art actuel from the Musée national des beaux-arts de Québec, and long-listed for the 2010 and 2016 Sobey Art Awards.

Tam holds a MFA in Sculpture (School of the Art Institute of Chicago) and a PhD in Cultural Studies (Goldsmiths, University of London). Her work is in museum and corporate collections such as the Irish Museum of Modern Art, Musée des beaux-arts de Montréal, Collection Hydro-Québec, Collection Royal Bank of Canada, Microsoft Art Collection, and in private collections in Canada, United States, and United Kingdom. She is represented by Galerie Hugues Charbonneau.


Tea Base is a curious community arts space tucked away in Tkaronto/Toronto’s Chinatown Centre Mall. They aim to make accessible space for intergenerational activists and artists who support social justice movements in and around Chinatown.
Tea Base is a space that develops solidarity across marginalized groups through relationships, joy, and collaboration.



Routes and Rituals


Online for free via VUCAVU

Dates: July 14-18, 2021


Project Description:

Reel Asian’s contribution to Place Settings features video-based works by artists Nelson Wu, Farrah Miranda, and Basil AlZeri presented on VUCAVU’s online platform for free. We approach food through bodied, material sites that reflect our relationships to one another, the land, and ourselves. These works expand beyond food as the act of consumption, contemplating varying pathways food is brought into existence, whether through kitchen utensils from a beloved store, repetition and stillness in sites of food preparation, or collective movement as resistance. Beyond the content, the respective formats of each video-based work further interrogate and negotiate the complexity and fluidity of food relationships. Viewable alongside the works are in-depth artists talks that share further insight on the process, themes, and reflections of the project.


List of Presented Works:

Tuesday, Nelson Wu

Speaking Fruit, Farrah Miranda

a recipe for a bleeding heart, Basil AlZeri



All videos are available to watch for FREE.
***Viewers will need to setup a free VUCAVU account to access Tuesday and a recipe for a bleeding heart. For instructions on how to sign up, click here.***


About the Artists:

Nelson Wu 

Nelson Wu is a Chinese Canadian artist who creates pixel art and illustration. Graduating from OCAD University, he is currently working in the video game and entertainment industry. He has produced a variety of illustrations, pixel art, and animations. He is inspired by his time in Asia; a sense of nostalgia and surrealism are often themes present in the work. 


Farrah Miranda

Born in the Gulf to parents who were migrant workers, Farrah Miranda’s lived experience has confronted her with the way people, places, objects and experiences are bordered. This inspires aspects of Miranda’s artistic practice in which she questions how borders are enacted through processes of categorization, securitization, censorship and control.

Moving between the gallery and the public sphere, Miranda creates situations that actively engage the viewer. With mediums that range from manipulated found objects to performance, installation and new media, she experiments with the pedagogical possibilities of art in undoing colonial borders, citizenships and illegalities.


Basil AlZeri 

Basil AlZeri is a visual artist living and working between Toronto and Waterloo region, Canada. AlZeri’s practice involves the intersection of art, education, and food, taking multiple forms, such as performance, drawing, video, and ephemeral installation. His ongoing research and practice examine the politics and significance of work in our lives. Issues he addresses include professionalization, careerism, emotional/immaterial/unrecognized labour, and the co-optation of relational practices by socially engaged art.


Presented by:





This program is made possible through the generous support of the Toronto Arts Council, City of Toronto, and ArtworxTO: Toronto’s Year of Public Art 2021-22.