The Conch Girl Project

The Conch Girl Project
is a photo-based, socially engaged project that utilizes cooking to co-nurture the mutual care for strangers started by Sidian Liu in New York City in 2022 summer. In a time of globalization, migration, and crisis, this project seeks to create experiential chances for healing kinship and emotional solidarity within a densely populated metropolis.

Sidian migrated to New York City in 2021 from the opposite side of the globe. Dealing with her sense of displacement, she has been asking strangers to let her use their kitchen in solitude. In return, she cooks them a meal. She started by putting out an online open call: a self-portrait of her in a classmate’s kitchen eating what she just made, and a paragraph of text that started with: “May I use your kitchen?” She asks for the least amount of face-to-face contact: she would arrive, cook, take photos, clean up, and leave. The kitchen owners usually leave the household or stay in another room during the visit. They usually won’t talk much, nor will they share the meal. After the visit, the resulting photos are sent to the kitchen owners, who are invited to make responses. These correspondences, along with the photos, will later be printed large and wheat-pasted on the green construction boards on the New York City streets, a public-facing, liminal space. The street publication is both a presentation and an open call that invites future collaboration.

The title “The Conch Girl” derives from a Chinese myth where a conch turns into a woman/goddess who takes on the secret nurturer role for a hardworking fisherman. The title is a name that bears the cruel tradition of marking domestic work as women's virtue. Though my project focuses on enacting radical care within a metropolitan setting than directly fighting against this structural injustice, The Conch Girl Project responds to Sidian’s reality, which is inevitably informed and influenced by this tradition.

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