Working with the Ideas for Creative Exploration Research Institute at the University of Georgia and Georgia College and State University, I developed The Food Project in 2012. Over a course of three weeks, I worked with a collaborator to engage communities of people throughout Georgia with questions around their relationship to food. Through story gathering and offering other opportunities for creative engagement, local content was developed as components to build into a performance. We shared meals and conversations with farmers, students, scientists, artists, chefs, people in shops, vegans, freegans, die-hard carnivores, people from all walks of life. Stories and creative responses were shared and collected; some were incorporated into a final lecture-demonstration performance. Through story gathering and offering other opportunities for creative interaction, local content was developed, forming components of an interactive live performance, Food. Interested participants were part of the actual performance as well. This project brought to the foreground the importance of conducting practice based performance research without an agenda. A high degree of engagement and honesty was reported by the diverse participants, many of whom attributed this to the openness of the listening and storygathering process itself.
In 2013, we were invited to repeat the project with Latin Americans in London for CASA Festival.
Tell me a personal memory you have about food:
I grew up in China. One of my favorite childhood memories is going on cicada hunts with my parents after dinner. The three of us would walk together in the dark, hand in hand, our eyes peeled for that telltale shadow on the bark of trees cast by the yellow light of occasional streetlamps. There was a playful sense of competition; I had eagle eyes. I loved that sense of adventure–it gave me a powerful feeling. I felt close to my parents. Most of all, I savored the cicadas we brought home to deep fry: crispy, nutty treats.
My friends in 9th grade looking at me like I was an alien because I knew calorie contents.
Every Christmas time my family has a tradition of making an “animal Christmas tree”. This is where we make ornaments out of food (balls of dough, popcorn strings, etc.). Then we decorate a tree in our backyard with the food ornaments so that the animals that live in our neighborhood have something to eat in the winter. We live next to a state park so there is a lot of wildlife. This is both a fun tradition and a good reminder of how universal ‘food’ can be.
WHEN I WAS 10, MY DAD TRIED TO FORCE LIVER DOWN MY THROAT. I REMEMBER BEING ON THE SHAG CARPET, MY TEETH CLENCHED. I ALSO REMEMBER THAT HE WON.