Monday, August 15, 2022
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Steph Huang at Goldsmiths Centre for Contemporary Art


“A Great Increase In Business Is On Its Way” is a palatable tale of food and fortune. Its narrator, Steph Huang, a chef and artist hailing from Taiwan, has brought bustling markets and restaurants into the Bridget Riley Gallery of London’s Goldsmiths CCA. Reminiscent of Émile Zola’s 1883 novel Au Bonheur des Dames (The Ladies’ Paradise), which likened department stores to places of worship, Huang has created a sumptuous sanctuary adorned with delicious little offerings for gourmets, bon viveurs, and other aficionados of momentary pleasures. A hint of cardamom—the queen of spices—emanates from Flow, (all works 2022)—the aromatic pods were clothed in a snake-like husk made of silk and woven through the holes of an MDF-board on the floor. In Open Bar, Huang re-imagines happy hour, complete with Campari soda bottles and bronze-cast peanuts mounted on an S-shaped wooden structure; as well as spicier servings of glass-blown Mortadella Bologna and Salsiccia Picante sausages dispersed on the gallery floor. A freestanding meat-rack features the words finest premium selected in gaudy neon letters, while a pudding tin on the floor collects recycled glass flinders of phones, LED screens, wine bottles, and strip lights.

Huang cultivates a fascination for colonial trade routes and the resulting economic survival (and co-option) of traditions, goods, and services. The exhibition replicates the interior of a deliberately ambiguous Asian restaurant: checkered mint-green-and-white wallpaper alludes to the economic boom in 1950s Taiwan, while the typical curtain (often found in European Asian restaurants) has been replaced with plastic sheets from butchers. At the rear end of the show, superstition has replaced hedonism via the seventeenth-century myth of Tannakin Skinker, a pig-faced woman—whose appearance, according to legend, resulted from witchcraft—has been turned into a robotic ATM adorned with a pig’s head that spits out customized poker chips. By joining her two worlds, Huang has plated a relatable critique, rich in colonial, cultural, and environmental seasoning, that leaves one hungry for more.

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