Is food still the great equalizer? An exhibition in Hong Kong celebrates lunchtime

Hong Kong – For the thousands of office workers in Hong Kong, the lunch hour is the time for a necessary food run – the metropole is notorious for its long working hours, suggesting the sort of time poverty that makes cooking at home difficult. The shared hour also creates a critical point of social cohesion among the city’s seven million inhabitants. Hong Kong’s heritage department, the Tai Kwun Centre for Heritage and Arts, tracks these social rituals in its latest exhibition, Let’s Do Lunch.

Designed by Ado Culture, Let’s Do Lunch is Tai Kwun’s second exhibition in its Lives in Central exhibition series. The series outlines the cultural and social landscapes of the Hong Kong business district. By institutionalizing its eat-out culture, the Tai Kwun Centre realized, Hong Kong had created a unique catalogue of spatial conditions that reflect constructs of the city’s working class.

For one, Tai Kwun suggests that food can serve as a class equalizer. Whether a fresh entry-level junior executive or the seasoned CEO of a major company, ranks are temporarily suspended in the giant lunchtime crowds of Central’s food courts. To visualize this idea, Ado Culture recreated a food hall. A large room is populated with balloon ‘people’ – the all-white installation renders an anonymous, flat hierarchy amongst the inflated caricatures. Off to the side a take-out wall reminds one of the office worker’s favourite lunch-time solution: the fast-food chain.

Other rituals, such as company or client lunches performed over dim sum, use food as a social tool. Connecting with others over a love of food can bridge any perceived sense of otherness, identified Tai Kwun. The necessity of eating unifies people – whether eating alone in a busy food hall, or collectively at an office lunch.

These examples of dining as a social act are illustrated in exhibitions set in auxiliary spaces connected to the main space. The Executive Lunch installation suggests how employees might use meals to network amongst one another. In the Fraternity area, workers eat in cuisine-defined ethnic groups. Lastly, the Company Lunch space contrasts with the solitude of the café install, noting the difference between eating to socialize and eating to recharge.

However one chooses to take their lunch, Tai Kwun and Ado Culture's closing comment is clear – no matter who you are or where you come from, everyone loves to eat.

Location 10 Hollywood Rd, Central, Hong Kong

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