The first time I saw an Asian restaurant was when I was in Germany on a student exchange. It was a small bistro near the Kaiser Wilhelm Memorial Church in Berlin. When I took a closer look at the menu, I was surprised to see that they also offered dishes from Vietnam. In addition to chop suey and pad Thai, there were also spring rolls. Without hesitation, I ordered the spring rolls. The familiar foreign taste of these crispy rolls was the trigger for me to start “Asia Bistro” 8 years later. The work is featured on the 8th triennial of Photography Hamburg, Deichtorhallen Hamburg, and on Futures Photography Plattform, curated by Marina Paulenka.
When I started the project, I was in a phase where I was facing the question of identity. I often found myself asking hypothetical questions, such as what it might look like for me if I had not gone to Germany but to another country, or if I had stayed in Vietnam. The fact that I am Vietnamese and Asian is something I probably wouldn’t have considered if I hadn’t lived aboard. I also wouldn’t have had a concrete idea of how food can reflect my identity and heritage. So, I came back to the spring rolls, tofu, and noodles in the hope that I could use their form and material to talk about the clichés about Asians/Asia while also thinking about the formation of my identity.
“Asia Bistro” has come a long way: I started by putting tofu, banana flowers and coconut cans on the table, and now I use myself in the cutouts, with my face, nose and ears. It helped me reflect on my identity in the cultural and social context, but at the same time it made me question my identity: is it genuinely me or am I a just reflection of the concept of “being Asian”? Such questions led me to explore the world of “Asia Bistro” in various ways such as creating the performance „Made in Rice“ and forming into different installations. “Asia Bistro” is a process that will continue to grow and evolve.
The latest spatial installation including the photography and the 3-channels performance video „Made in Rice“ is created to be a space for a deep dive into my metaphorical use of imagery and experimental sound/music. It is a playground for me to let myself immerse into another dimension for “Asia Bistro”.
THE PHOTO BOOK
The photo book „Asia Bistro“ is also a way for me to explore “Asia Bistro”, not just as a collection of images. This book examines the fractionery character in images and addresses therewith the strong relation between cultural consumption / stereotypes and the individual identity formation. Recently, the book was selected in the Shortlist of Kassel Dummy Book Award 2022. More details are to come soon.
The book is designed by Julika Hother.