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Reel Asian’s contribution to Critical Distance’s durational project Place Settings features video-based works by artists Nelson Wu, Farrah Miranda, and Basil AlZeri. 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.

 

Toronto Reel Asian Film Festival

The Toronto Reel Asian International Film Festival Presents:

Routes and Rituals

Presented in partnership with Critical Distance and VUCAVU

Text written by Kelly Lui


 


Routes and Rituals


No doubt we all have some connection to food, whether through the need for daily sustenance, acts of labour, or acts of care. If we took a closer look at these connections, what pathways, systems, or structures are revealed? Through a collection of video-based works by Nelson Wu, Farrah Miranda, and Basil AlZeri, Routes and Rituals contemplates food as agential networks of mobilized and messy entanglements in our everyday existence.

Nelson Wu’s Tuesday takes us along a commute to Tap Phong Trading Co., an iconic store known for its affordable kitchenware sought out by “everyday people” and professionals alike located in Spadina Chinatown. Paying careful attention to colour, detail, light, and sound, this commissioned pixel animation delivers a moodscape that evokes our memories of food spaces and pays homage to the daily rhythms of people who work in food service. With ongoing community efforts to address and resist the rapid gentrification happening in Chinatowns globally, acts of remembrance can become collective resistance. Remembering these community spaces does not have to rely on official public memorialization. Rather, feelings, dust particles, and the weight of kitchenware are just as valuable in contributing to a living record that more keenly reflects a community’s relationship with space.

"Tuesday" takes us along a commute to Tap Phong Trading Co., an iconic store known for its affordable kitchenware sought out by “everyday people” and professionals alike located in Spadina Chinatown.

Still image from Tuesday (2021), Nelson Wu

“If the fruits you grow and pick could speak from dinner tables, refrigerators, and grocery aisles, what would you want them to say?”

- Quote from "Speaking Fruit" (2017) 

An expansive project initially conceived in 2017 through the collaborative work of migrant workers, artists, activists, organizers, allies, and more, Speaking Fruit by Farrah Miranda begins with this playful yet critically reflexive question that confronts our own position within the food system. Who are the workers behind the production of food we find on our tables? What are their stories? From format to content, this project represents the agency, creative resiliency, and humanity of migrant agricultural workers. Miranda’s 360° VR film invites viewers to witness the choreography of migrant grape growers working on a Niagara vineyard while being immersed in their music and voices. We are brought to understand how the fruit grows from the care and love provided by the migrant growers as well as materializes the pain and suffering they face from exploitative labour practices. 

 

... this playful yet critically reflexive question that confronts our own position within the food system.

Speaking Fruit (2017), Farrah Miranda


An accompaniment to the expansive project named Speaking Fruit by Farrah Miranda, this short virtual reality film allows the viewer to witness the dance of migrant grape growers working on a vineyard in the Niagara region and listen to their music. The dance reflects their relationship to the land and each other.


Click the window below to watch. To view the version without Audio Description, click here.

This 360° VR film allows the viewer to witness the dance of a grape growers, and listen to their music. The dance is about their relationship to the land and to each other.
 
Migrant farmers walking away on green farmland, carrying bongos.
Still image from Speaking Fruit (2017), Farrah Miranda

In Basil AlZeri’s a recipe for a bleeding heart, we are offered a visceral guide of harvesting and preparing yarrow without any direct instructions. As the recipe unfolds step-by-step, the viewer relies on sensory observations to piece together a recipe. What do we expect to be the final product? AlZeri’s work asks us to challenge conventional knowledge production within food practices beginning with the construction of a recipe. What are the ways knowledge is recorded, passed down, and shared? Throughout the film, the only verbal instructions we receive are “chew baby chew”. Just like the simplest of gestures can convey and evoke complex emotional responses, the utterance of three words can carry loaded tension through instruction, power, and direction. We become aware that knowledge can be contradictory, as seen in how we perceive the yarrow: invasive or native, unwanted weed or an aesthetic flower, unproductive or medicinal. In the end, it grows just the same wherever it can.

Together these works and their distinctive formats take us along various pathways to encounter, reflect, and reconsider our relationships to food, food practices, and food structures.

- Text written by Kelly Lui
 

...asks us to challenge conventional knowledge production within food practices beginning with the construction of a recipe.
A close up of a sidewalk with flowers poking through the cracks

Still image from Speaking Fruit (2017), Farrah Miranda

 

ABOUT THE PROGRAMMING PARTNERS




The 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.

        

Critical Distance Centre for Curators (CDCC) provides opportunities for curators and artists to mount fully realized exhibitions and projects within a critical framework. Through a wide-ranging annual program supplemented by special projects and partnerships and supported by the production of original publications, editions, and others events, CDCC is an open platform for diverse curatorial practices and perspectives, and a forum for the exchange of ideas on curating and exhibition-making as a way to engage and inform audiences from all walks of life.


VUCAVU thanks Reel Asian and Critical Distance for their partnership in creating this program.

This curated program is part of the VUCAVU Expanded project.
We acknowledge the support of the Canada Council for the Arts.​