“Where is it going to be today?” some ravens would ask Ching when they saw her going through the second day with the walking cart. The first day whetted the appetite and curiosity passed from mouth to mouth. Those who had already tasted it helped to demystify the exoticism of Taiwanese food and there were people who had already decided – “they told me it was so good that I came here to taste it” was the phrase that was repeated over the days.
Ching spent ten days in Corvo, at the artist residency promoted by project “9×9: Artists Are Islands, Islands Are Artists“, between the 22nd of October and the 1st of November, an Azores 2027 initiative – Ponta Delgada’s candidacy for European Capital of Culture 2027, in articulation with all the municipalities and islands of the archipelago.
O Corvo, being the smallest island, piqued his curiosity, and in the search to prepare his application for residency and get closer to what would be the local reality, he started by searching for the village on Google Street View. Did not find. And this was the starting point for his installation – to make his own mapping of the streets of Corvo. More than the urban landscape, he was interested in “documenting something more human than the streets”.
Ching-Yu Cheng was born in Yilan, grew up in Taipei, capital of Taiwan, and graduated in Architecture. She was inspired by the work of Siza Vieira who became interested in Portugal and landed in Porto, in 2013, where she has lived since then, to do a Masters in Art and Design for Public Space, at the Faculty of Fine Arts of the University of Porto.
In Taiwan’s night markets he learned that food brings people together. And adding food to the idea of mapping the Corvina landscape was the way to interact with local people and bring them to participate in the mobile installation.
Not everything went as planned, and the weather forced many changes of plans. “The streets and the weather didn’t allow me to do exactly what I wanted, I wanted to go cooking and attracting people as I went by and I had to change the plan”. Ching says the days were very intense and with a lot of work. The mobile installation forced it to multiply its functions, curiously similar to what happens to most of the island’s inhabitants. And in a few days Ching was an artist, cabinetmaker, videographer, cook and street vendor.
For those who followed the process, everything seemed very fluid, were it not for the perfect combination between Ching’s apparent tranquility and commitment and the contagious and tireless energy of Andreia Silva, the project’s local producer.
In addition to monitoring this artistic residency, Andreia is also the face of Corvo’s candidacy for the Azores 2027 project. In other roles, she is co-coordinator of Casa do Tempo, president of Corvo Vivo Association and is part of the amateur theater group. She knows the names of all the island’s residents and, interested and trained in Cultural Heritage, she always has a curiosity or story to tell. It tells us about everything, about the traditions of Corvo, araçás, small red fruits that grow on the other side of the island, and even about Espírito Santo, a religious cult well known by the Azoreans, linked to the Church but independent of it and in other islands are called Empire.
Ching confesses to being lucky to work with Andreia, especially in a place where the inhabitants know the time of the plane and boat by heart. And at this time of year, there are days when the island is on its own, between the dark color of the volcano’s earth and the vibrant green of a tropical scent. There are less than half a dozen grocery stores, a bakery, a cafe/snack bar and a restaurant. Ching brought a suitcase full of Taiwanese food, which he bought in Asian stores in Porto. In addition to the green bean noodles, seaweed, dehydrated mushrooms, wheels and other items to build the installation came in his luggage.
Then, at Corvo, what doesn’t exist is fixed. The wood to build the cart came from the neighboring island and the Santa Cruz das Flores City Council made itself available to cut it. In the early days, Ching worked in Luís Carlos’ workshop, a place that was closed but was transferred to David TP, a Hungarian carpenter who moved from Ireland to the island two months ago, and who in turn, already integrated in the Corvinian spirit, presented the space to Ching and put the tools at his disposal.
Corvo City Council provided the communal kitchen for Ching to cook and test some dishes. Santa Casa da Misericórdia and Corvo Firemen’s Bar lent the bowls and some cutlery and other crockery came from Andreia’s mother’s house. The eggs came from Dona Isaura and the sweet potatoes from Tintin. Sãozinha, of the baked cakes, lent the pots. And the Holy Spirit lent the trays and towels.
“Andreia was really a great help and I noticed that all people help each other, this was fundamental for everything to go so well”, says Ching.
Andreia confesses that when she received the project and the various layers that made it up, she was a little scared, both to ensure its production, but also to ensure that she would be able to make known the artistic side of the concept. Lauris Vitolins, Ching’s companion and also an artist who lives between Riga and Porto, ended up joining and accompanying part of the project.
Food bringing people together and the labyrinthine streets of pirate times
“Oh, ma’am, come and taste the caramelized sweet potato, it’s sweet, you’ll see that you’ll like it”, calls Andreia in Largo do Outeiro to whoever passes by. “I came two streets down and I was already hearing your voice”, answers an acquaintance of Andreia who comes to taste Taiwanese snacks. “Look, the potatoes are from Tintim”, he tells several of those who pass by.
Several people arrive to prove it. Sampa talks about a similar recipe, but with milk, which is made in Cape Verde, Barbara asks about the type of sweet potatoes in Taiwan and many of those who pass by try and ask for the recipe. Áurea, age 9, Andreia’s niece, and who accompanies and helps in almost all the production, does not like the sweet potato traditionally used in savory dishes and enjoys this version.
The cart makes other stops and when it reaches the end of Rua do Jogo da Bola, there are already people asking for the “pudding”, as they decided to call this sweet because of the similarities between the potato syrup and our pudding. Others show up to taste the tea eggs – a typical Taiwanese snack, made with a slightly cracked boiled egg boiled in tea and spices – that Ching had made the day before.
Before the cart became a food truck, Ching turned it into an image-gathering device and went around the village one more time. Many of Corvo’s streets, the canadas, are narrow and winding, deliberately difficult and labyrinthine, built at a time when it was necessary to face and outwit pirates. Today, neither artistically nor figuratively, Google Street View is there. In addition to the fact that the village is much bigger and has many more streets than Ching expected, rolling the cart through the canadas of Corvo was one of its biggest difficulties.
“There are many streets to document, I had already visited some islands and this one is very different from the others. In the others I felt that there was a kind of downtown or historic center and not here”, explains the artist, who had already been in Faial, in 2016, in a residence of the Cultural Association Making.
On the last day the mobile installation toured the streets of Vila do Corvo, the same cart that collected the images was now showing them to its inhabitants. Eggs and sweet potatoes were also returned to the cart, to the delight of many, and Ching even made noodles, seaweed, and mushrooms. Joana, a croaker and a vegetarian, says that “it was a breath of fresh air” and that “everyone liked the food a lot”.
Gustavo and Vânia, who moved from the mainland to Corvo about a year ago, came to taste Ching’s delicacies and see the work on video. Gustavo asks Ching some questions about the images and tells SAPO that he thinks “the idea of bringing together the community around food is very positive”. At the end of the night, as the stall closes, Áurea, who became a fan of the eggs, says in a shy but assertive way that everything was good and that people liked it.
From working at the hotel with your grandfather to the endless possibilities of art outside your circuit
Ching grew up in her grandparents’ hotel, lived on one of the top floors, and for her the hotel has always been her home. He started doing small installations and in a final work of his degree he ended up working together with his grandfather, learning how he worked with metallic threads and plasticized fabrics.
“I made it an artistic work. He didn’t really understand what he was doing, but I learned a lot with his technique and I realized that I really enjoyed working with people who are outside the artistic world”, explains the Portuguese-Taiwanese.
The artist says that it is important for her to work with the community, not that she feels obliged to work for someone else, but she thinks that “the artistic world develops a lot within its own circuit and that sometimes it is difficult for those who do not study art to be able to relate to it. if with the artistic objects”.
Due to his training, he has the habit of doing research in the field and relating his work to the outside world. About this project at Corvo, he says that “the most important thing is to bring the idea that there are many possibilities in art and that people knew about it”.
About the images that were collected during these days, Ching says he is very happy with the result. “I like the visual aspect and the interaction it has with people”, he says. Now return to Porto to edit the images that will be available on your Web site.
During these days, many asked if the cart would stay in Corvo and threw ideas on how to use it to make popcorn or roast chestnuts. Among the games, it was the farewell, the visit to the Caldeirão and with the background that is the ex libris of the island, that Ching gave Andreia the responsibility to keep the car and do whatever actions she wanted on the island. This Ching-style Google Street View hasn’t finished its turns and is likely to continue rolling through the streets of Corvo.
*SAPO traveled at the invitation of Azores 2027 – Ponta Delgada’s candidacy for European Capital of Culture 2027