Wednesday, September 3, 2008

‘Vacanza 度假’ project in Toffia, Italy

‘Vacanza’ meaning holiday or vacation in English was an exhibition took place in Toffia's art festival between 13th and 17th August 2008. The result of the collaboration between Ruobing Wang and members of '33 Officina Creativa' from Toffia brought together six artists of Chinese descend to explore a light-hearted theme based on holiday. When translated into Chinese, the title for the exhibition is ‘度假’ (du jia).

Artists took part were Yak Beow Seah, Poh Mui Tan, Thau Yin Lee (Jeffrey), Hua Kuan Sai, the curator Ruo Bing Wang, myself and with voluntary help from my wife Cheng Heong Wong. We are a group of Chinese artists came from China, Malaysia and Singapore respectively and studied fine art in the UK.

A view of Toffia. Image by Ruobing

With a population of approximately 1000, Toffia is a village with Medieval and Roman history. On describing Toffia, the curator Ruobing Wang said, “Searching through Internet, it is not difficult to find Toffia described as a charming ancient medieval village, offering tourists not only incredible visual pleasure such as the untouched landscape of rolling hills, olive trees and wine groves, but also spoiling them with locally produced healthy vegetables, oil and delicious Italian cuisine. Only 30 miles north of Rome, Toffia was built on a wedge-shaped spur of rock with an obvious defensive purpose during the medieval period. The extraordinary position at the hilltop also bestows on Toffia a contemporary value. Today Toffia has less purpose as a place of residency than a suburban holiday resort supplying cultural and natural needs for the city dwellers nearby. Nor is this an isolated case: there are many such villages nearby experiencing similar circumstances, for example Farfa and Fara in Sabina. And this is precisely the reason why the appearance of Toffia struck us collectively a temptingly like a holiday, even though we come from various social and political backgrounds.”

A street scene of Toffia. Image by C. B. Pok

Wang sees ‘Vacanza’ as “an experimental and controversial attempt in fusing the two rich and enduring civilizations of Chinese and Medieval European culture. Art by Chinese artists has gathered great momentum in recent years, appearing throughout the international art scene since the 1990s, most frequently in the sophisticated big cities such as Roma, Berlin, London and New York. In this sense, an exhibition of Chinese artists in the remote medieval village of Toffia is worthy of exploration… ‘Holiday [Vacanza exhibition]’, therefore, brings with it a multinational, multicultural and yet globalized context to Toffia’s local residents, and, of course, the large number of summer holiday tourists too.”

Entrance to the gallery and publicity poster. Image by Ruobing

Another publicity material. Image by Ruobing

My wife and I arrived late in Toffia on 15th August (the exhibition started on 13th August) due to a pre-booked holiday to Istanbul before I was informed about the project. Unfortunately, we also arrived in Toffia with food poisoning on us; and I recovered a few days after I came back to London.

However, with the help of the rest of the artists in the group, I managed to present two pieces of work for the exhibition. ‘Free Sample’ was an eatable sculpture uses olive oil, a cooking ingredient that every Italian family uses for their cooking and at the same time a local produce in Toffia, to mix with the Chinese’s sesame oil. The mixture was then filled in small sampling bottles and displayed on a small table for the visitors to take away free for their cooking or mix with their salads.

My 'Free Sample' work. Image by C. B. Pok

A closed-up view of 'Free Sample'. Image by Sarah L'Epée

Another piece was a cooking performance with the rest of the exhibiting artists, it uses ‘fusilli’, one of the most commonly used ingredients in Italian cooking to stir fried Malaysian style. All the food in our culinary performance was served free to the visitors.

A scene from my fusilli stir-fried Malaysian style cooking performance. Image by Ruobing

A closed-up view of my cooking performance. Image by Ruobing

My works for the ‘Vacanza’ exhibition choose the most commonly used food ingredients and cooking method in both Italian and Chinese’s everyday life to engage with the gallery space and the people of Toffia. It interprets my personal experience while I am away on holiday or lived in foreign land; it is a celebration of the culture where I come from and the culture of the holiday destination. Or, in much general term, the works revolve around the notion of celebration of cultural hybridization; as well as embody a sense of connecting, exchanging, and conviviality. For 'Free Sample', the idea of work of art can be sampled free and come back for more later is ambiguos and debatable.

Mui and Seah's Curry-puff performance, Jeffery and Ruobing were helping. Image by Ruobing

(From left) Mui, Hua Kuan, Yvonne and Jeff in the 'Kui Kar Pek' or 'Love letters' making. Image by Ruobing

'Mama' is preparing a homemade pasta for the hard working volunteers and artists. Image by Ruobing

Mui and Seah's 'Hum Chim Pen' performance. Image by Ruobing

Mui's paper aeroplanes installation using papers from travel guide book. Image by Ruobing

Seah's Untitled, lemons and chopsticks installation. Image by Ruobing

Jeffery Lee and Ruobing's collaborative projection (left) and Hui Kuan's photograph interacts with an existing bell in the space. Image by Ruobing

Another of Hua Kuan's photograph installation. Image by Ruobing

Ruobing's installation using sound recorded in Toffia and old documents found in the space. Image by Ruobing

A closed-up view of Ruobing's installation. Image by Ruobing

The recipe for my stir-fried fusilli piece (suitable for vegetarian):

Ingredients one:
Garlic (Chopped)
Bean sprout
Onion (sliced)
Green and red pepper (sliced)
Carrot (sliced)

Ingredient two:
Fusilli (boiled according to the instruction on the packaging)

Ingredients three:
Dark soy sauce
Light soy sauce
Salt and white pepper
Sesame oil

Ingredient four:

1. Heat up a wok to a right cooking temperature.
2. Pour some oil and place the garlic in the wok.
3. Put the rest of the ‘ingredients one’ in the wok and follows by ‘ingredient two’
4. Put all the ‘ingredients three’ in the wok, stir fry and well mix them for about a minute.
5. Put the egg inside the mixture; stir fry for about another 30 seconds and serve.

For further reading about the ‘Vacanza’ project please follow these links to Italian art writer and curator Emanuele Sbardella’s blog:

For information about Toffia please follow this link:


Joel said...

Wow, you have a great blog. I’ll be visiting next time…


It's very informative. Thanks for the info...

Blackened Fish Recipe

Anonymous said...

Thank you for having spoken about the little critic contribution that I am publishing day by day on my blog, dear Andrew.

What I'm doing is:
-- Present broadly the VacanzaProject
-- Critically analyze each work

Up to this moment I:
-- Released all the general information (including photos)
-- Talked a little 'most critically of the following work
Seven artists, Cooking performance
Seah, Untitled

Given that the work will lead to long term, here I put a link that leads to my blog. To be precise: link to all the articles of my blog tagged "Vacanza".

Unfortunately, for the moment the majority are in English.
In English (in my bad English) you can read:

-- This general

-- This on Untitled of Seah

Sorry for the length of the message.

Thanks to all.

And in particular to the owner of the blog.

Emanuele Sbardella

Case Vacanze Jesolo said...

Un buon lavoro è stato fatto, si prega di mantenere in questo modo.

Welcome to the ground

Thank you for stopping over. The Ground We Share evolves from my research study where I make a comparative study between the concepts of the everyday in art practice and Zen.

My art practice may be seen as the result of my interest on the matters of the everyday and Eastern thoughts. Over the years, I have produced a body of cross-disciplinary work that explores the as-it-is-ness of things, and interconnectedness between objects and people. My own cultural background and life experience are often revisited, examined and evidenced in the work within this journey of exploration.

In Zen tradition, mindfulness to everyday trivial is important in their spiritual pratice, my research relates this notion of attentiveness from my work to this tradition. Historically, many important twentieth century artists and art groups who expanded Duchamp’s theory of the ready-made and the everyday were also influenced by Zen teaching from D.T. Suzuki and Shunryu Suzuki that can also be related to this research.

In contrast to the Western sociological perspective on the study of the everyday from important thinkers like Henri Lefebvre and Michel de Certeau; I look at it from a different perspective - through the prism of a contemporary artist that comes from an Eastern background.

This blog provides a space to share my activities and information arising from my work and research. You are welcome to be part of this interconnection by posting your valuable experience, thoughts and comments.