how to build small boats
Food and labour have always been integral to my life. The sounds of a restaurant, the heat, the rush, the swing of the doors, the rising smells of meals cooking, the sheer movement of woks and pans, food and mouths, all of it is not a din to me. Rather, it is part of my skeleton, built into me and what I stand on.
These photographs were made in mom-and-pop-owned Chinese restaurants in New York State. Chinese restaurants are a true global and sociological force, a social interface created by economics, but its import goes beyond service and labor, and beyond hand-to-mouth.
John Berger wrote, "To emigrate is always to dismantle the center of the world, and so to move into a lost, disoriented one of fragments."
Like many other families, emigrating to the United States has
been the most significant decision of
our lives. Both of my parents, never having had any previous
experience in the restaurant food service industry
in Hong Kong, nevertheless found work in Chinese
restaurants in upstate New York.
Originally I wanted to debunk conceptions of essentialism and a manufactured "chineseness." This
approach, although not altogether wrong, lead me
nowhere as a visual artist.
I am more interested in family and personal
I hope that these photographs show the true human agency,
resourcefulness, beauty, care, and balletic labor - a
life in the spaces and objects of cheap-and-fast
Chinese-American cuisine, a 7 day a week, 14 hour
operation. These are spaces of work, of time, and of a kind of building, of a kind of home.
all images © Ka-Man Tse