Objects of Displacement: Keg de Souza’s Installation in Vancouver’s Chinatown

Artist in Residence Keg de Souza has been working on a project entitled Appetite for Construction since September 10th of this year. She created a unique physical structure, inside an abandoned dim sum restaurant, in the heart of Vancouver’s Chinatown, using found and collected items placed inside vacuum-sealed bags.

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The items were submitted by members of the local community, and they range from discarded Starbucks cups to a dried octopus and take out menus. Together these objects create a collective exploration of themes of displacement and urban change in relation to food culture in the Chinatown area. All of these materials in some way mark or represent the urban and cultural reality of the area.

I arrived early to 544 Main St. on Saturday October 15th, excited to witness Keg’s process during one of her open workshop days, and I decided to walk around the block, to get a feel for the area. I found myself observing Vancouver’s Chinatown in a new light.

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I noticed the differences between the older family owned stores and the newer food localities like Starbucks on busy Main Street. The presence of food permeated the architecture of the old buildings and the smells wafted from the piles of spices in shop entrances.

I was struck by the contrast between this feeling of a deeply rooted cultural presence around the block, and the hustle and bustle of Main Street shops selling tourist items like large Canadian flags.

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As I assisted Keg in placing various items into vacuum-sealed bags, I was struck by the presence of discarded homeless signs that had been created and used to solicit money, and shelter pamphlets detailing food schedules for people in need. This experience was an important reminder that food culture also encompasses the lack of access to food that certain populations face. From the signs, to pamphlets and discarded materials, this network of items creates a unique visual map of the food culture of the area.

– Michele Davey

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