Would you like to make me a cup of tea?
For this project, I am reversing the roles where I invite someone else to make tea for me at the studio. A selection of herbal teas, water, fuel and a teapot will be available. My shelves are stocked with various supplies that you can use to make me tea your way. During the conversation around tea, you are invited to write down your recipe on the canvas tablecloth. The tablecloth and potentially a video recording of your hands making tea will be exhibited at SPACE studios showcase in March. This would be an extension of the ongoing mini-performances in the studio that I documented in my blog so far. Those situations may also later translate into painting.
The intention of these series of mini-performances/social sculptures is to activate an intellectual exchange around herbal knowledge, the significance of cultural differences and everyday rituals.
I am not into sweet stuff, grew up with a taste for non-sweet things. So I like my tea just like this. I had a phase of drinking rooibos, because it has the taste of Asian tea and you could drink it like green tea by itself but it did not have the caffeine, that’s where I settled for a long time. There are various kinds of traditional Japanese teas: hojicha, sencha – that is quite strong, genmaicha – rice tea, and mugicha – the cereal tea, a summer favourite.
In order to make a good cup of tea, you’d pour the hot water into this special pot before you pour it into the tea pot to cool off. For your second and third cup your water can get hotter and hotter. You normally drink from a type of porcelain cup called yunomi and a saucer – chataku – that’s usually made of wood or bamboo. I also pull out my grandmother’s tea set when I want to show slightly more care.
As I grow older and further apart from the family, drinking it the traditional way helps me preserve my very Japanese upbringing. My mother was one of very few Japanese people in Watford at the time, so she was asked to do these tea ceremonies at the local library. Sometimes I would get asked to help out, do things like hold up her kimono and instruct on proper ways to drink tea: turn cups three times, drink two or three and half sips… at the last sip you were supposed to do that special noise – all those things that I was asked to do after I got home from school. I’d go help out and then go back to watching my cartoons on BBC.
Malva with chamomile
I went for the residency to this little town Pizo in Calabria, making music, it was sound based project, got some nice tea and also go the dog. Giuseppe who was running the residency recommended to buy the tea from the women who only sell the malva and nothing else. He would say: “If you do malva for a few days, you will be chilled out like I am.” The chamomile from Calabria comes in little bundles of stalks. You’d mix it with chamomile and it has this very relaxing effect.
That bundle looks like a dog treat a bit. Could use it for my dog – to get him chilled on chamomile.
Meditation made easy
“Have you tried it? It’s good to start off with three minute exercise, it’s easy and it’s good to set yourself challenges. You don’t have to listen to the New Age soundtrack, or do anything strange, just focus on your breath. It’s really about you taking the time to let go of your thoughts. You may have thoughts, your mind might wander, all you have to do is come back to just your breathing.”
“The power of meditation has been proven. It’s going to make people more productive…”
“…Fitter, happier, more productive, just like in the Radiohead song.”
“Funny how this wellbeing thing became trendy again. You would be in Silicon Valley and everybody would say, let’s go for coffee and then they would go out and ask for a blend of chamomile, rose petals and soothing herbs in their perfect reusable cup that they brought with them.”
Rooibos with honey
16 Mar 2018
“I bought two things: redbush and chai in these tiny jars, this is from when we had our wedding a little while ago-”
“Thanks. Yes, we had them as favors, So we go together with friends and made them ourselves over the weekend. And my uncle who has a bee farm keeps bees so he made honey jars. Look, my uncle even put our photo on the label here…”
“I’ve been to a wedding where they gave mini bottles of vodka as gifts.”
“-Oh, no, we don’t do much alcohol in our family. I don’t do much caffeine either. Redbush is the tea of our household, also because my mom’s from Zimbabwe. It’s normal to drink red tea and black tea there, people have it with milk if they want to, but I I am honey tea kind of person…”
In Pursuit of Ordinary
25 Feb 2018
“When I was a university has struggled with anxiety, so the doctor told me to limit my caffeine intake to my cup of coffee a day. I decided to produce artwork around this restriction, to which this moment became a daily ritual. Every time I had a coffee I would record the
conversations, my thoughts or what I read between that first and last sip. I would then write this text back into the cup itself, with a special Pebeo ceramic pen that I would later set in the oven. This process would mean the ink would not disappear in the
dishwasher or from the liquids the vessel held. These cups, now repurposed into artworks, were returned the cafe to be used alongside unaltered normal cups. If a customer, by chance, was served a drink in
one of my cups the text within the vessel would be slowly revealed the more they drank. People would buy coffee and might get one of my cups or might not. I would sit there for hours and watch people read
and come across the art.”
22 Feb 2018
“For me, tea is about the drinking rather than making of it… I used to be a smoker and there are two different types of smokers: people who take ages to roll a perfect cigarette and the actual smoking is not as important, or those who get one out of the pack and that’s their break…. so I’d have tea and coffee intermittently to keep myself evenly buzzed all day, as long as it helps me work.”
Lemon Sherbet Rooibos
14 Feb 2018
“I have been a bit lethargic recently and used the citrus zest oil to get me going. Did you get it for the same reason?”
No, I just got it because I liked the color – during my Chromotherapy/Cindy Sherman phase of curating and photographing flower bouquets for 19 weeks… Or maybe I liked it because I grew up on lemon sherbet ice cream in America, I was drawn to the flavor. “
There is a guy at SOAS that makes amazing green Pandon tea, the herb they use in South Asia to make cakes, use it for smelling. He makes it with oat milk and it’s really good. It’s inside the building where George Orwell wrote 1984. You can try Thai ice tea there too. If you come on Wednesday we can meet in between my classes there.
Chai on a hibachi stove
“So this hibachi oven you use to cook the chai- do you use it to grill things on it at home too?”
“Not really, I have not found a proper pan for that in the UK.”
“It must be because it’s the same in Asia – no one really does hibachi at home, people go out to restaurants, there is a social element to that when people sit around and watch food cooked in front of them, and then you watch other people watching it.”
“There is an element of performance to it-“
“It’s all about observation of other people.”
“…How is your life anyway, how are things?”
“Would you like another sugar to sweeten it a bit?”
8 Feb 2018
“I am opening up cardamon since I want to make sure we get the full flavor. It’s nice to use whole spices. It’s something that you do on a holiday, kind of nostalgic… There are probably loads of different recipes out there.”
“Does it taste the same as the one you had in India?”
“…When you are traveling and you are hot, you get the flavored tea on a roadside it feels different, unique… It depends on what’s available, what are your choices, I suppose.”
“Speaking of unique, in America apparently this idea of comfort animal has gotten out of hand and people are routinely taking their animals on the plane with them. I read an article that mentioned someone has taken her peacock with her on the plane.”
“Did she still manage to fit him under the front seat?…”
1 February 2018
“ I don’t know who thought it was a good idea to invite her. Maybe they expected her to see what nobody could see. But actually, everybody could see that she was dying. So she was using encantation. No herbs really. She may have sprayed something over the bed while walking around… I just know that I was so astonished by my mom, a realistic person like her getting somebody like this suddenly into the house..”
“Where did that idea come from? Your family used the help of witches before?”
“No. Maybe from a friend.,. “
Rosehips and dried apples
22 January 2018
“My mother always had herbs in stock, prepared herself usually. We would bring them from our trips to the Carpathians as a memory and as a remedy for later. She would use herbs first before any medicine unless I’d have a very high fever… I would make the rosehip tea myself. It’s not like you could go out and get a snack out on the street somewhere those days, it was in the late eighties, I could go into the cupboard, grab a handful of those and boil them in water by myself. “
17 January 2018
“Turkish tea is made in a teapot that looks like an espresso maker -”
“-Let me see if my studio mates may keep one -”
“- but this metal blue one will do, perhaps let’s boil it for a bit on the stove. Maybe next time I come to Turkey I will bring one like that. I bring my stuff little by little on my visits back home. When I moved to London, it was just me, my daughter and a few suitcases. My daughter is really good with travel though so we have hardly separated for long ever since she was born, and I move around a lot.”
“Your artwork has lots of names of places as titles…”
“Yes, I moved around the same area a lot, don’t know why, but it made me think of the sense of space and time. So when I went back to the council to get the blueprints of my old apartment, I started working with a cartographer who taught me the basics of scale and mapping. This knowledge has become the formal structure for my paintings.”
“Where does the colour come from?”
“I have synesthesia and automatically strongly associate those places with various colors. And my technique involves a lot of time and layering – akin to laying on bricks and floors of a building…. Now I came to London and I find myself speaking Turkish a lot – so many compatriots here – yet again – so many layers of cultures as well. ”
15 January 2018
“I am a bit bored of keeping busy making tea for others for my performances and would prefer to have people perform their own rituals. How do I get others to do it?”
“…There is not much of a ritual here, it’s just an old boring cup of tea, PG tips with a splash of milk.”
“Well. It depends on perspective. My grandfather used to drink tea with milk. He was the only man in Zhmerynka to do so. I found it so exotic. And you find it mundane. What is a ritual? Something you do every day. I suppose it’s different from a ceremony where one makes a special occasion.”
“Speaking of special occasions: around Christmas time my mother used to make us Orange Pekoe tea. Why is it even called that? Is there any orange in it? It tasted so rich and special… My friend brought me some Oregano tea from Spain. Would you like to pop over for a cup of tea?…”
“Who was that poet that wrote from the trenches “And is there honey still for tea? -”
” – Must have been missing the mundane while at war…. What is this book: The Assassination of Margaret Thatcher next to the teapot?’
“Oh, it’s just another gift I got. She did not actually get assassinated. Want some honey with your tea?”
The right blend of herbs
“My cousin has been bathed in the right blend of herbs when she was a newborn. You know: with the incantations and spells so that the boys would love her. She was very popular with boys in school and the university. One even killed himself. Burned himself to death… She has a hard life; so clever, has a PhD but her husband moved out. Her elderly father lives with her and is half mad, she is fighting cancer too… Love her positive attitude though: “We’ll all die eventually”.
My grandmother did not do the same spells and bath when I was born: “You don’t need it, Hanya. It’s not so simple. It takes back as much as it gives,” she said later. “
“You were taken to the hospital with a minor problem. It was filthy. They infected you with Staphylococcus. They tried all kind of antibiotics on you. Your little hands were covered in needle pricks. Nothing worked. They were ready to write you off. My father took you the central hospital and begged to see the head doctor there. He was one of the intelligentsia, kindly man. Quietly, he told me to go home and try extract of dockweed on you and told not to tell anyone about it. We took you home. My mom did the extract and wet your lips with it for a few days and you recovered. It was a miracle. Noone in the old hospital believed you survived like that.