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 Eating cultures



AAWAA and Asian Pacific Islander Cultural Center (APICC) join forces to present the multidisciplinary art exhibition Eating Cultures, for the United States of Asian America Festival throughout May 2014. Featuring over thirty emerging and established Asian Pacific American artists from around the country, Eating Cultures is a deliciously provocative multi-disciplinary arts exhibition of artworks inspired by Asian American food and foodways. Using food as a lens, artist share stories of global migration, adaptation, entrepreneurship, and the central importance of food in Asian communities around the world. In addition to over fifty art, film, and literary works, Eating Cultures will feature Asian American oral histories provided by Southern Foodways Alliancevia Guide by Cell, dynamic programming co-presented by Asia Society and the Culinary Historians of Northern California, a pop-up shop, and a recipe wall for audiences to share their favorite family recipes.


Food is intimately connected to the histories, cultures, and communities of Asian Pacific Americans. From the beginning Asian Americans have played a crucial role in the preparation, consumption, and production of food within the United States. Food strengthens community ties, creates and reinforces cultural identity, and for many provides a taste of love, warmth, and memories of home. While Asian Americans have experienced difficulty making significant inroads into American movies, television, politics, music or art, our food has had an outsized impact on the culinary landscape of the United States. Currently there are more Chinese restaurants in the United States than McDonalds, Burger Kings, and Jack n’ the Boxes combined. In many cases restaurants are the only place one encounters Asian cultures and people in a given locale. Despite, or more likely because of, its ubiquity, Asian and Asian American foods are often used to create or perpetuate representations of the “exotic Orient” and justify xenophobic or racist actions and sentiments. Conversely, APA foods are also a means of bridging cultural gaps, encouraging inclusion and acceptance, expressing aspirations, and negotiating and reinventing notions of “Asian American-ness”.

The title “Eating Cultures” accommodates multiple different readings, at once referring to both the central importance of food in many Asian cultures, as well as the problematic fetishization, objectification and consumption of Asian foods, cultures, and people by others outside (and within) APA communities. Whether approaching APA food and foodways as personal rituals, geopolitical bargaining chips, the subject of voyeuristic fantasies, or a means of cultural survival, this diverse group of talented artists share their own deliciously provocative visions and readings of what it means to eat in Asian Pacific America.


SOMArts Cultural Center, Main Gallery, 934 Brannan Street, San Francisco.

Exhibition Dates: 

May 1-30, 2014. Tuesday through Friday from 12-7pm, and Saturdays from 12-5pm.

Opening Reception

Thursday, May 1, 2014. 6-9pm. Catered by La Cocina’s Incubator KitchenRSVP on Facebook!

Closing Reception

Friday, May 30, 2014. 6-9pm. Special performances: Erin O’Brien performs Sausage Homage, Margaret Rhee with Kimchi Poetry, and Rene Yañez with The Great Tortilla Conspiracy. Featuring a community potluck, guests are invited to bring a dish to share. Co-hosted by Community Health for Asian AmericansRSVP on Facebook!


Michelle A. Lee


Dr. Margo L. Machida, Professor of Art History & Asian American Studies at the University of Connecticut



Susan Almazol | Sigi Arnejo | Jung Ran Bae | Mitsuko Brooks | Ka Yan Cheung | Karen Chew | Flora Choi | Melissa Chow | Samantha Chundur | Kay Cuajunco | Alison Ho | Grace Jahng Lee | Zilka Joseph | Juliana Kang | Robinson | Larry Lee & Jason Dunda | Theresa Loong | Alana Lowe | Cathy Lu | Mieko Meguro | Michiko Murakami | Chee Wang Ng | Genevieve Erin O’Brien with Aaron Henderson & Grace Umali | Jessica Redmond | Margaret Rhee | kate hers RHEE | Yoshie Sakai | Shizue Seigel | Pallavi Sharma | Jessica Tang | Cynthia Tom | Christine Toy Johnson | Frances Wang | Michael Watson | Maggie Wong | Leslie Zeitler | Sara Zin

Funded in part by

API Cultural Center, California Arts Council, Robert J. Louie Memorial Fund, San Francisco Arts Commission, Wallace Alexander Gerbode Foundation and the Zellerbach Family Foundation. Venue support generously provided by SOMArts Cultural Center and San Francisco Arts Commission.