Connection vs Isolation

– a collaboration with Holly, Mary, Olivia, Seoyun & Sun

Food is the top priority in traditional Chinese culture. Having a meal together symbolized a connection. Therefore, traditional Chinese family must have family dinner for every Chinese festival.

Food is a universal tool to begin a discussion. Most people feel comfortable to talk about. (John, 2014) Once after this grooming-talk, we may switch to a wider range of topics (Fox, 2004), for instance, living habit, family culture, or consumer behaviours. Rirkrit Tiravanija (1992/1995/2007/2011-), an artist who used food in his installation, has also blurred the boundary across artwork, artists and audiences. He brought art and daily life together, conveying that art was not that condescending.

The hit of COVID-19 forces us to reflect on our daily routine. It also seemed to tear human relationship, especially friendship, apart. Physical distancing has inhibited physical contact between friends. Imagine how this could have affect people in ancient time, but with technological advance, friends may still relate with each other.

Now friends may chat over phone calls/text messages.
Now friends may play music across different balconies.
Now friends may have cyber dance party.
However, seldom has addressed how friends have meals under physical distancing.

Someone has started ‘solo toast’ during quarantine. (Enrico_barberis_negra, 2020) Can the idea be pushed forward to arranging meals together under quarantine?

Screen capture of meeting for development of ideas and dining activities.

The pandemic spread rate is still high. We are in midway through a proper dinner with social contact, but there are still interesting findings.

Food is part of a culture. In our group it appeared that culture was more a regional thing than ethnic. Personally, I use more plates and dishes than bowls to serve food in UK; while back in Hong Kong, I use more bowls than plates or dishes. In UK, we tend to have more pasta and bread than rice. On the contrary, we tend to have more rice than pasta and bread when we were back in our Asian home country. 

In terms of connection, there was a phrase in ‘Confucian Analects’. ‘When three persons befriend to each other, there must be something you can learn from the others.’ We shared recipe. I learnt some new dishes. We shared art research findings. We also talked a bit our family issues. Listening how family dinner looked like in other cultures was an amazing thing. Apart from the food and table manner, topics on the table in family talks did not seem much different from different cultural background. Is culture an ethnic thing? Or is it because art students share similar family culture? Should we re-evaluate how specific one culture is different from another? There are lots of discussing questions for our next meet ups. This is how friendship be under social distancing so far.


Confucius. The Analects of Confucius: a Philosophical Translation. New York :Ballantine Books, 1999.

Enrico_barberis_negra. (2020) ‘The original wonder’ [Instagram]. 19 March. Available at: (Accessed: 17 July 2020).

Fox, K. (2004) Watching The English. London: Hodder Headline.

John, E. (2014) ‘Meals, Art, and Artistic Value’, Estetika: The Central European Journal of Aesthetics, 51(2), pp. 254–268. Available at: (Accessed: 15 July 2020).

Tiravanija, R. (1992/1995/2007/2011-) untitled (free/still) [Installation]. The Museum of Modern Art, New York (Viewed: 13 March 2012

Leave a comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.