Qianlin & Ed’s Kitchen

This is an online cooking-show performance I collaborated with Ed Lewis to test the boundary between art and non-art, performance and performance art, and people’s reactions toward it. Another part of this performance is published on the Mafazine, about my preparations for the show.

Unlike performing in the real life, people didn't interact with me for most of the time and I can’t improvise based on the audience’s reactions; unlike Kay’s cooking videos, in the live event, the pace is much slower and therefore harder for people to see the boundary between acting and reality. But most importantly, no one has questioned if this was a performance at all. In the first half part, nobody questioned my cooking. When I took the cake out, someone said it looked horrible. I immediately said no, it might look not that good, but it tastes good. I wasn't sure if he got the joke. In the end, someone told me that I should bake the cake again and she was worried about my boyfriend's and my health. I don't know if this is a test on my character, or she didn't get this as a performance.

During Ed’s performance, my friend texted me to ask if Ed was performing, she was worried about him. She laughed although she thought she shouldn't have laughed. Why does she think she shouldn't laugh? It was meant to be laughed at. I think people didn't know how to react to and feel about a joke if they aren't explicitly told that this is a joke. Might also because of the political atmosphere that people are afraid of speaking out their real opinions, being judged, and offend others. To know if something is good or bad, something is a joke or not, I think it's an ability to think independently and critically. Why do you feel you shouldn't laugh? Because nobody does it?

In the MAFAzine, I wrote an article to double down the joke, on how I learned my cooking skills. Before the performance, I made a lot of notes on how to cook badly. Without those videos, I wouldn't realise there are 'wrong' ways of cooking. While I was making notes, I found it was much more difficult to learn how to cook badly than cook well, because I'm a person who usually follows the recipe strictly and my cooking is quite good. I can't understand how can someone cook at that kind of disaster level. This made me realise cooking badly also needs someone to be creative, it needs no less than cooking well.

What’s the difference between bad cooking and intentionally bad cooking? What’s the difference between amateur art and self-conscious slack art? When did people start realising this is a performance? How far would be the limit that people decide to ask or stop me under the social awkwardness? What will change if this performance is done offline?