Keg de Souza gives us food for thought

Friday 09th, September 2016 / 16:50
By Sydney Ball
Keg De Souza is dissecting culture by going through the stomach.

Keg De Souza is dissecting culture by going through the stomach.

VANCOUVER — “As state government sells of more public housing for private ownership and developers buy up more real estate, the rate of homelessness continues to rise and inner city Sydney is slowly being converted into a sea of luxury apartments.”

Reading the description of New South Wales’ capital on Keg de Souza’s website might cause you to do a double take. The damaging logic that makes housing a commodity in Vancouver seems to be near identical to what has created Sydney’s situation across the globe. It then makes perfect sense that the Australian artist has been spending much of the last year in Vancouver and is situating herself in Chinatown in preparation for her next project, which is centred on the complexity of food culture in the city.

Photo: David Roth

Photo: David Roth

De Souza has been doing work across the globe creating public space for conversations using “food as a metaphor for displacement.” She has done similar projects in Sydney, New York, and the Isle of Skye, where she created temporary tent structures to host picnics, where people bring food identified with the geographical place they are in. One of the surprises she noted was how much Indigenous foods were eaten in Vancouver while, in comparison, the New York picnic had nothing meant to represent Aboriginal culture. There’s a real tie between the displacement and decimation of Indigenous culture, gentrification, and global migration in De Souza’s work, and while the connections are complex, often food is one way we can start to see these connections in a city’s culture. Of her new project, de Souza is careful not to be too predictive of what will come of her time spent in Chinatown, saying, “My work unfolds as I spend time in a place.”

But she has already drawn parallels between Sydney and Vancouver, noting its colonial influences, diverse migration, and high-end “foodie” culture. Through public engagement and experimental mapping, De Souza is shining light on what she calls “artificial hierarchies around food.” She notes the “clash of soup kitchens and upscale farm-to-table restaurants” in the Downtown Eastside and has been exploring the curious circumstance of meeting an urban farmer who grows produce for both.

This fall, de Souza will be working out of her studio — once a Dim Sum restaurant located on the northeast corner of Keefer and Main Street — and collaborating with the local community on a food-mapping project in Strathcona as part of her residency at the Burrard Marina Field House Studio, an off-site space of the Contemporary Art Gallery. Find out the dates and times of upcoming events at

Keg de Souza’s residency at the Contemporary Art Gallery runs from September 10-October 31.

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