Gai Tong Ap Guong, 2005

Gai Tong Ap Guong [Chicken with Duck Talks], a one hour long DVD video artwork, presented as a street level art installation in conjunction with Red Dive’s project entitled Peripheral City: City of Refuge.

“The mere smell of cooking can evoke a whole civilization” – Fernand Brandel

“Do not dismiss the dish by saying that it is just simple food. The blessed thing is an entire civilization in itself” – Abdulhak Sinasi

“Sweet, sour, bitter, pungent – all must be tasted” – Chinese Proverb

Video Documentation:
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Project Description:

Chinatown New York City, the largest Chinatown in the United States, is currently expanding do to a variety of economic and political forces in the city and on the far side of the globe – but how will the gentrification of the whole Lower East Side effect this bastion of history and culture? Since 1878 when the first Chinese grocery store, Wo Kee, opened on Mott Street, and in the same year the U.S. Supreme Court denied Chinese the right to become American citizens, the people of Chinatown have had the dual struggle to both survive on a daily basis and at the same time preserve their rights and culture. In the present moment The Asian American Arts Centre is battling eviction by landlords bent on gentrification. What changes are happening in the neighborhood and how can its value be preserved? What are the simple every day familiarities and pleasures that define culture on a daily basis?

Gai Tong Ap Guong  makes use of audio, video, photography, and puppetry. It combines documentary photographs, traveling imagery of the street level built environment and interviews with the people who live in the neighborhood. Audio and text on screen is in both Chinese and English.

The title refers to a common saying in Cantonese about culture clash. It translates something like “(When) Chicken with Duck Talks (Neither Understands.)” A typical fixture in many restaurants in Chinatown, skinned ducks and chickens, often with the heads and necks still attached, hang in front windows as an appetizing enticement.

Gai Tong Ap Guong uses the traditional saying as a means to pose questions to the local inhabitants about their own neighborhood and cultural change which has occurred or is currently going on around them, and attempts to capture the almost hallucinogenic density of daily experience in Chinatown.

Corky Lee (Additional Black and White Photography) 

Teri Chan (Interviews) 

Raul Rothblatt, Eric Jiaju Lee (Musicians)

Special thanks to Maureen, and everyone at Red Dive, and to Mr. Choy, Mark, Mike, and everyone at Silkroad.