In collaboration with Asia Art Archive in America, Red Flower Collective hosted its seventh meal, responding to questions of the archive as they relate to food and cooking. When is the archive ephemeral? Can the archive be eaten? Is the body not an archive for the food that it chews and swallows?
AAA in A’s collection of books on food and cooking features recipes with Southeast Asian, South Asian and Chinese influences. A recent addition to the collection is The 1Shanthiroad Cookbook, edited by artist and art historian, Suresh Jayaram, who founded the 1Shanthiroad artist residency in Bangalore, India. The book comprises recipes from non-chefs, from people who passed through a space in which they resided, gathered, made work, ate with others, and exchanged various inherited and generational knowledges.
By reinterpreting some of the recipes from the Archive, Meal #7 highlighted the role of the hand, the tongue, and memory in the kitchen. The task of preparing a recipe, even if it has been written, is the task of recreating it, of retrieving it from a different context—what was it like before? The tongue commands the hand: how much? How long? Why not? The body is an archive of the gestures and smells of the kitchen and the hand reveals its memory.
On June 24, the collective prepared fourteen dishes for a sit-down meal.
Red Flower Collective is a food research and eating collective founded by art historian and researcher, Erin Montanez, and artist-homemaker, Tsohil Bhatia. Since its inception in July 2021, the collective has hosted free, open meals out of borrowed kitchens loaned by friends and institutions. With a rotating membership of artists, chefs and homecooks, and community organizers, the collective is interested in sharing food and cooking together through community meals, installations, and programs. The project takes food and the labors of cooking as key tools in forgoing the sterility of the gallery exhibition space, collaborating with practitioners to center generational culinary histories and affirm diasporic identities.
Red Flower Collective was born during COVID 19, out of the desire to eat with people, to counter the taboo of being together and sharing home space, and to assert that food is a primary issue of public concern. We are drawn to the idea of a porous home, one that is malleable based on both individual and collective need. The provision of a meal and the meal as an event invites a group of people unfamiliar to one another to assemble. Red Flower Collective aims to break the transactional nature of food consumption and instead encourage communal eating. The nature of care is at the center of the collective’s project.
Meal #7: Eating an Archive is made possible by the New York State Council on the Arts with the support of the Office of the Governor and the New York State Legislature.