The Taste of Hands

The Taste of Hands: A Circulative Kimchi Buffet.

With MeeWha Lee and six Kimchi-making ladies, I offered a food installation that shifted the focus from product to the relationship of producer and consumer. Visitors of the ’2010 Seoul Art Festival made Kimchi sandwiches by selecting the pickled veggies through photographs of the ladies’ hands that made it — and not by its taste.

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No matter how industrial production is dominating our food chain, the tastiest, most authentic dishes still require the work of artisan hands. This is particularly true for quality preserves and traditional pickles. In Korea it is impressive to observe the physical and manual effort that restauranteurs and grocery retailers put into producing their endless varieties of Banchan (side dishes) and Kimchi. Machines don't seem to keep all with the tactile affinity required to wash, peel, chop, brine and collate the flavorful goodness. Hence, Koreans refer to homemade foods as SonMas "the taste of hands".

P H A S E · 1 ) MeeWha and I went to the Sindang and Seoksu fresh markets to buy Kimchi. We made sure to ask the vendors if they produce the pickles themselves. Explaining the circulative art project, we asked them let us photograph both their hands. One lady remarked: "Don't be shy to take a picture of my face — it's certainly pretty!"

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P H A S E · 2 ) Between October 2 to 10, we set up an artistic Kimchi buffet at the ’2010 Seoul Art Festival. Hundreds of hungry visitors assembled their Kimchi-butter-toast sandwiches by selecting pickles through depictions of the hands that made it. Most people approved of the novel fusion snack and wrote onto paper napkins why they chose that particular pair of hands.

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P H A S E · 3 ) The handwritten notes on the napkins are addressed to the respective Kimchi manufacturer. Some show stains of Kimchi and in itself little pieces of art. We returned unannounced to the market to pass on the napkin notes to the surprise of the Kimchi makers.

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Seoksu Art Project
C O N T E X T :
The Taste of Hands (SonMas) was a project contribution to the Doshirak+ Food Drawing Café facilitated by MeeWha Lee and Sindang Art Space in Seoul. Doshirak+ was part of the container village at on Yoeiudo island that represented the network of Seoul Art Spaces at the ’2010 Hi Seoul Festival between October 2 to 10, 2010. The concept behind our "food drawing cafe" aligned with the festival's overall notion for "citizen participation and sharing". The name "Doshirak" means lunchbox in Korean: the Chinese character "rak" that refers to relaxation gives the name the second meaning than translates into "urban design".

N U M B E R S :
The Taste of Hands project took place on two weekends (four days) where more than 500 hungry persons manufactured their own toast sandwiches from 16 kg Kimchi, 12 kg bread, 20 heads of lettuce, and 1½ kg butter. What remains is a broken Philips toaster (that capitulated on the last day of the installation) and more than 300 paper napkin messages with feedback from the Kimchi eaters that we delivered to the six Kimchi ladies in Sindang market (Seoul) and Seosku marketplace (Anyang).

GAMSA-HAMNIDA! This project was made possible with the indispensible support of MeeWha Lee (Sindang Art Space, Seoul), HeeYoung Kim and SooYoon Kim (Geumcheon Art Space, Seoul), SoYoung Hyun, YoonJi Lee, SanKyung Han, Juuri Jeong (and her boyfriend!), HyeRyeon Jang, SeMi Cho, EunMi Cho, YeSeul Moon, Csue Moon, SeokHyo Eun (Isabelle), YaeJee Yoo, JunYoung Ji, Unah Lee, HyeongSun Jang.