Lotus Root and Sauerkraut
"Beyond borders" Workshop in Nanjing
The streets in China are full of the smell of food. Whether boiled, steamed, fried, or baked, street vendors are cooking everywhere. What makes Chinese street food special? How is it prepared? What do the vendors use to cook it? And how is it different from German food? This transcultural workshop beyond borders took these questions about food as a way of exploring cultural difference.
A Report by Laura Bernhardt and Daniel Juric
The basic idea behind the beyond borders workshop in October 2015 was that cultures of food can be both a means and an inspiration for ideas in design. Food makes it easy to experience cultural difference. It can be touched, smelled and tasted. This was why the designers Laura Bernhardt and Daniel Juric chose food as the subject of their workshop. Twenty-five students from the Nanjing University of the Arts researched and analysed Chinese street food and typical "German" food. Both groups were open to new ideas. The approaches they came up with were as diverse as their many fields of study, from the fine and the applied arts, fashion design and urban planning to landscape architecture.
The workshop began with the students taking to the streets of Nanjing. They documented the diverse local cuisine and focused on how the food is prepared and which cooking utensils are needed. Following this detailed analysis, they transferred their results onto short video clips and presented these. The next step was to show the participants some typical German foods. Then they selected a number of foods from each culture and defined attributes for these, so as to develop new ideas. The workshop was based on principles of chance and design that led to a thorough, comprehensive and innovative new concept.
Most of the participants were interested in the symbolic significance of their ideas and linked their projects to literary or abstract and philosophical ideas. In small groups, they discussed their ideas and developed texts – the concepts were often narrative in character. One project was a walk-in completely dark installation, with a massive clock with no hands but an intensive ticking sound that seemed amplified in the darkness. This idea was based on a combination of a lotus root filled with rice and cooked in sugar and the manual production of sauerkraut. Another group was inspired by the preparation of a Chinese noodle dish and a German curry sausage. They designed a pavilion for public space that had punched patterns and symbols on its roof. These ideas were developed as drafts and projects and then presented in the form of models or small animations. The participants were inspired by methodologies from design processes and were delighted with the results.
The workshop took place in conjunction with the ifa exhibition new olds in Nanjing.
- Goethe Institut
- AMNUA – Art Museum of Nanjing University of the Arts
- Nanjing University of the Arts