Dumpling House

DUMPLING HOUSE: temporary communal kitchen, translucent beacon on the landscape, temple of culinary contemplation, Emily Stover and Molly Balcom Raleigh.

Gather at our communal cooking table and learn how to make dumplings, teach what you’ve learned to those who enter after you, and enjoy a taste of our collective cooking. Dumpling House is designed to be a place for reflecting on the meditative practice of performing a simple food craft while immersed in a strange sensory environment. Cooking at Dumpling House isn’t about reproducing a perfect recipe, rather it’s about the adaptive modifications that we make as we connect to others’ ideas, values, and cultural backgrounds. Much like our physical and cultural landscape, what emerges isn’t homogenous integration, nor is it a perfectly distinct articulation of individual identities. It’s a messy, swirling, steamy blend of authenticity and compromise and connection and practice, and we make it together.

During the ten days of 2013 Fermentation Fest – A Live Culture Convergence in Sauk County WI, Molly Balcom Raleigh and Emily Stover built and occupied a swirling translucent structure that held a simple kitchen for making dumplings. Dumpling House was a temporary interactive installation that explored the collaborative making and sharing of food within the working landscape that produced its raw ingredients. Fermentation Fest, organized by Wormfarm Institute, is an annual food and farming festival that uses art and engagement practices to connect locals and visitors to the agricultural lands that sustain them.

What emerged from two weeks living and working in Sauk County, including more than 50 hours of public engagement over a communal table, was both as simple and as complex as creating filled dumplings.  Though the participation design of Dumpling House was focused on the social and sensorial act of learning and teaching an ancient food craft, the project’s participants initiated conversations that confronted complicated social themes of gender roles and equity, cultural appropriation, privilege, and the strained relationship between urban and rural populations.

In 2014 we brought Dumpling House to urban audiences in Minnesota, this time with a new custom canvas skin. We installed on the Minneapolis Convention Center  lawn for an event called “Creative City Challenge: Maker Day” curated by Northern Lights.mn, and on the University of Minnesota campus as part of the Catherine E. Nash Gallery’s exhibition “thinking making living.”

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