Ding Ren’s practice is the everyday act of living, observing and thinking. It is a search for in-between moments and slight nuances which requires a constant engagement with her immediate surroundings, and the experience of living in-between cultures: between China, the United States, and the Netherlands. The shifts in contexts and perceptions which occur in the everyday are the elements which inform her practice; a shift in perception, an alignment of gestures between two strangers, a miniscule disparity. These observations formulate a poetry of the quotidian, which, when taken out of the “life” context and placed in an “art” context, are perceived in a different manner.
Ding’s project at at ArtFunkl has aimed to engage directly with the city of Manchester through food culture. She has set out to devise the food equivalent of an ethnographic study which looks into Manchester food culture, and compares it with the distinct food culture of Amsterdam where she lives.
During a previous period working at a weekly farmer’s market in Washington DC, Ding found that her understanding of how the choices made in relation to food are directly connected to political and cultural issues shifted. She became fascinated with the community food co-op’s of the area and their operation. After moving to Amsterdam, she was frustrated to find a lack of a organic food stores and farmers markets. Surprisingly, she found there were no neighborhood co-ops selling bulk food items, and in general most people in Amsterdam have a diet centred around bread and cheese.
Ding has spent her time in Manchester shadowing the operations of several organic cafes and co-ops, such as the 8th Day Co-op, Earth Cafe and Unicorn Grocery in Chorlton, as well as researching the local farmers markets. She has interpreted her findings in a format which focuses on stimulating a dialogue on the greater cultural, political, and sociological ramifications of food culture. For Ding, the idea of food as art/art as food is an area where art and life can come closest to becoming indistinguishable from one another.