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
Location: Billboard at Spadina Ave. and Sullivan St.
Dates: June 14 – July 25, 2021
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
Locations: Artscape Youngplace, 180 Shaw St. and 222 Spadina Ave.
Dates: June 18, 2021 – ongoing
Karen Tam’s project includes a billboard image at Artscape Youngplace of her grandmother holding a vegetable from her thriving balcony garden, coupled with a planter box in which she has grown from seeds to various herbs. 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 community when shared. These specific planters and their collaborative tending offer 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.
Reel Asian presents a layered video-based project that responds to the thematic propositions offered by Place Settings. More details to follow.
Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival is a unique showcase of contemporary Asian cinema and work from the Asian diaspora. Works include films and videos by East, South and Southeast Asian artists in Canada, the U.S., Asia and all over the world. As Canada’s largest Asian film festival, Reel Asian provides a public forum for Asian media artists and their work, and fuels the growing appreciation for Asian cinema in Canada.
This program is made possible through the generous support of the Toronto Arts Council, City of Toronto, and ArtworxTO.