On Friday, November 4, Australian artist Keg de Souza presented the completed structure for her project Appetite for Construction at a public opening. This project began on September 10 and engaged various members of the community in and around Vancouver’s Chinatown neighbourhood.
I am happy to have witnessed the transformation of this structure. The collection of objects over the past two months culminated in a luminescent, transparent cube-like structure, inside of which people were able to gather around a table wrapped in a map of Vancouver. The map was covered in personal memories and notations about the local food culture in the area.
Inside the structure, visitors could enjoy hot tea and dim sum while taking in the various objects suspended inside the vacuum-sealed bags. Providing dim sum to guests was an especially nice nod to the previous reality of the location 544 Main Street having been a dim sum restaurant.
While at the exhibition I spent some time in conversation with the public and asked them to share with me some of their thoughts and reactions to the project and final exhibition. One person remarked that Keg’s structure is a mark of revitalization. Another person commented on the importance of having the chance to see the neighbourhood from a different point of view, reconstructing the familiar into something new. It was also noted that the structure renegotiates the urban, by bringing the street inside.
Further comments reflected on the elements of nostalgia and memory, that this project embodied. The structure was thought to have created a unique texture from different aspects of the community and with entry points for conversation spanning from food to consumption, waste, consumerism, and poverty.
The objects, illuminated and showcased within transparent bags, reminded me of evidence, the collection of which created a snapshot and mosaic that made space for the community to come together, recognize and reflect on themes of displacement, gentrification, and food culture.
– Michele Davey