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Curating Contemporary Art (MA)

Yan Xie (AA)

For us, to share explores ideas of home via food, spice, and the in-between space of translation with students from the Bosco Centre in Rotherhithe. The group all called Southwark home at the time of the workshops, including refugees, migrants, asylum seekers and local residents. They came together to share stories, recipes and food. Working with artist Saima Rasheed and mother tongues a local and global multidisciplinary collective, over four workshops, they explored local history archives at John Harvard Library in Southwark, painted with herbs and spices and translated their own recipes of home through multiple forms of media to create a visual recipe book that brings many different cultures into one place. The book was launched at Southwark Park Galleries on Saturday 7th May in a recipe sharing that acted as a call and response from one community to another.

This project was conceived and delivered at a moment when migration and community displacement was on the rise with policies demeaning those who travel to the UK for a better life becoming ever more severe. Situated in and responding to current global affairs, For us, to share sought to celebrate the many similarities and differences found in culture, memory and language. Ultimately, the group's lived experience is a microcosm of what is happening on a global scale. 

The memory of their own food or their favourite meals became the translation. Transcending language barriers, everybody was able to communicate through their own recipes and visuals. Reclaiming the stickiness of communication through acts of painting, collaging, eating and drawing.

For us, to share is constant, the project can continue to develop with your contribution. Food is a tangible history passed through hands and oceans; this book is a message to the relationship we all have with places and people. 

The students, artists and curators have given permission for their stories and recipes to be shared. We encouraged participants at the sharing to add their own recipes and continue to share this book, enabling their food to travel beyond your home. 

The book can be found at The British Library, Canada Water Library, Camberwell Library, Walworth Library and currently in exhibition Southwark Today at Southwark Heritage Centre from 6 June 2022 until June 2023, curated by Syrup.

The digital PDF can be found at the right side column of the page by clicking For us, to share

Recipe book design by Jennifer Whitworth

Printed by ME PRINT

For us, to share, curated by students from the Royal College of Art MA Curating Contemporary Art, is a part of 2022 Graduate Projects in partnership with Southwark Park GalleriesFor us, to share was created in collaboration with the Bosco Centre, Saima Rasheed and mother tongues.

Yan Xie (AA) is a curator based in London who looks to engage diverse communities with artistic practice. Her focus is on participatory art and the relationship that it generates with participants, drawing upon ideas including, the power relation between institution and individual, antagonism of participatory art, collaborative art, and approaches to democratisation. 

Her graduate dissertation, ‘The intimacy of Participatory Art’, explored the relationship between participatory art and participants under different degrees of engagement, and questioned the curatorial hierarchy and power relation in conventional art scenes. Yan aims to break down the threshold between the audience and arts, while extending a broader meaning of participatory art. Whether it is a utopia for building relationships, a negotiation between participants, a triggered antagonism, or dissensus, this new practice raises the art form to a long-running process. Through the lens of participatory art, she observes deeper layers of the establishment of social relations, the exposure of political issues, and uncontrolled civil violence.

Yan was a part of the curatorial collective of the Royal College of Art 2022 graduate project, which curated For us, to share, in the partnership with Southwark Park Galleries. The project discovered and shared the personal experiences of students from the Bosco Centre via food, recipes, and stories. Over four workshops, students engaged with historical archives from Southwark and painted their visual recipes by co-creation form to produce a recipe book. The project uses more intimate engagement to place individual voices at the centre, whilst challenging the curatorial hierarchy.

An extract of the table runner
Participants of sharing, swapping recipes at Southwark Park Galleries
Workshop facilitated by artist Saima Rasheed to create a collective table runner
Students artworks exhibited in The Bothy at Southwark Park Galleries
Recipe Sharing with participants
Workshop facilitated by collective Mother Tongues to create translate collages
Flip through the recipe book