During February and March, artist Lu Lin will inhabit the VHDG AiR for two months. She will deepen her research she started in Leeuwarden last summer with her project Homesick Restaurant. With that project she aimed to create a space for the so-called ‘expats’, the international residents of the city, creating a feeling of home through sharing food. Food carries a lot of cultural significance, and in this project serves both as a tool for research, countering homesickness, and sharing experiences, for those international residents whose home is both ‘there’ and ‘here’.
Homesick Restaurant was initiated in 2021, together with experience researcher Tanatorn Lay and is at once a traveling restaurant for communal cooking, a workshop facilitating story-telling and story-sharing and a safe space to address homesickness with people in similar situations. For Dutch residents with a migration background, the act of preparing meals together is a perfect starting point to reflect on social and cultural rituals, and to open up a discussion about ways in which to adapt to new and unfamiliar environments. During the workshops participants are invited to talk about feelings of loneliness and experiences of being an ‘expat’. In 2022 four editions of Homesick Restaurant took place in Leeuwarden, supported by Over de Drempel and in collaboration with visual artist Jun Zhang and textile designer Rosa Mol.
“We are There and Here”
As Lu returns to Leeuwarden for this residency, she will be something of an expat herself, making this city her home for the next two months. She will delve deeper into the topics earlier explored, and will focus specifically on the question: “How can cultural institutions create a welcoming and safe space for international residents?” What’s everyday life like for an ‘outsider’ in Leeuwarden? What barriers do you encounter? In which ways does this kind of alienation hinder cultural participation?
With these questions in mind, Lu will employ embedded research and seek out international residents, but also locals, community leaders, marginal groups and cultural institutions. Together they will organize four public, collective workshops, once again centered around one very simple, yet immensely vast and significant concept: food.
The topics addressed during this project and the methods employed in her research all relate to the core question of Lu’s artistic practice: “What is a ‘safe space’?” How is a safe space created, and for whom? How do you create a sense of safety across diverse cultural perspectives? How does safety relate to categories such as race, ethnicity, class, status and citizenship?
For Lu, safety is based on three essential human needs: clothing, shelter, and, of course, food. To research the concepts of ‘safety’ and ‘safe spaces’ in our society, Lu reaches out to various groups and people, and invites them to collaborate or participate, to look at the behaviors surrounding these essential needs. Together they explore how all this is affected by all kinds of social categories and circumstances.
Photo: Rosa Mol