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Bạn đã ăn trưa chưa? (Have you had lunch?)

AAA residency collective contact sheet 2

>The residency. Asia-Art-Activism. Raven Row. London.

Cuong Pham and I spent time at a few Vietnamese and Chinese community centers; we had lunch and chats there. We also organised low key events at Raven Row; friends and colleagues came to cook, share tea, played Đá cầu, Ô ăn quan, badminton, practice tai chi. We talked about calling the project ‘Bạn đã ăn trưa chưa?’ ‘Have you eaten lunch yet?’. Those essential, joyful, nourishing interactions between people happen on a regular basis at the community centres we visited. Most of them were at threat of closing down, some still are today. What can we still learn from each other? Some elders who go there have a stretched relationship to time that I sometimes forget exists. In the austerity climate we wanted playing and hanging out to be our process. Taking the chance of being surprised, and welcoming the unexpected, the risk of being together. In hindsight and as we had no budget at the time, I think these months were a busy and embodied brainstorm to map out some ideas and make connections that could be developed at a later stage. I printed the contact-sheet of the film we used along the way, a film shot by several people throughout the residency. The night of the total lunar eclipse in January 2019, in the darkroom, time slowed down. Because of the special attention one has there, you are absorbed by the inward-looking, meditative practice. It felt like a good time to reveal the trail of our experiment. I wanted to live the experience of being exposed to that nocturnal light myself, and somehow connect it to what we were doing together. Perhaps it would wish us all luck, I thought. Contact-sheets are to me very interesting because of not being the final result but a landmark in the process of printing photographs. In the normative codes of photography, they have the practical function to see which frames you are going to select and enlarge - say, for an exhibition or a newspaper. For the purpose of what we were doing, we chose to not isolate some frames from their context,  instead we kept them together to call attention to the contrast between them. I found myself conflicted when I finally saw the content: I had finished the roll of film with pictures of the site where our old darkroom was, the building had been replaced by luxury flats and marketing suits.

I thought how enraging to come full circle in the picture of London gentrification.

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