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Vacanza (Holiday)



13>17 August , 2008

Organized by 33 Officina Creativa

Curated by Wang Ruo Bing

Lanterna cinese. Progetto Vacanza - Foto di Sarah LEpée
Vacanza chinese lantern - Photo by Sarah L'Epée

Seven chinese artists

Lee TY Jeffrey

Pok Chong Boon

Sai Hua Kuan

Seah Yark Beow

Tan Poh Mui

Wang Ruobing

Wong Yvonne

Locandine del progetto Vacanza - Foto di Sarah LEpée
Vacanza Project's posters- Photo by Sarah L'Epée

Terminological notes

Vacanza is the italian word for the chinese Du Jia (in english Holiday)

But we must bear in mind that the literal translation of dùjis something like to spend  holidays.

Introduction to the project

The Vacanza Project is the result of a collaboration between seven Chinese artists and members of 33 Officina Creativa of Toffia (a little center in Sabina – Italy). A preponderant role in creating this artistic experience was played, in Toffia, by Alessandro and Giordano. Their main mediator was undoubtedly Ruo Wang Bing by the chinese side.

A first contact occurred in May, when Ruo Bing was selected to participate in 20eventi with some other young artists of the Ruskin School (Oxford University – London). On that occasion, in which even I got to know both the artist and the association of Toffia, was developed the idea of the project which would take place three months later, always in Toffia, but with more autonomy from 20eventi.

I was lucky enough to get involved in Vacanza just at the exhibit and critic level (i came at a time when the exhibition had already set up) starting from August 11th. My experience was dazzling.

In addition to a friendship that in a short time was consolidated with both the souls of the project (i mean the assosiation and the seven artists), I could go through the artist’s maze of their creative and philosophical concerns; but I also had to face and solve many organisational problems that happened in the various levels of the Project.

I am going, in this first article, to give a neutral report of what happened, then investigate more specific issues with other interventions. This series of articles (tagged with “vacanza”) will be, with the contribution of all comments, part of a work that must continue in various forms in agreement with 33 Officina Creativa and with seven chinese artists.

It’s important, not only for me and my personal memory, but for scientific knowledge of contemporary art, that an event like this does not fall into oblivion.


Vacanza was a residence and artistic project for the production of highly localized and participatory pieces. Vacanza was a very complex project but readble on multiple level; as such accessible to be able to integrate itself without contrasts with the concomitant popular festival “Let’s relive the Old Town”. In this festival was organized an extensive exhibition of craftsmen from all over Italy and dinners prepared and put on the table thanks to the extraordinary voluntary cooperation of a large number of residents (especially women and boys). In view of this, was the will of far-sighted artists and curators to amalgamate the individual works in the exhibition and put them in connection with the external environment through the “culinary code”.

As well as to raise various individual works, the culinary code was the medium for a collective performance which is completely open to the public, abandoning any modernist utopia of  objective and intellectualised observation. Although the latter, in fact, is not excluded, the enjoyment of their Cooking performance implies the complexity of their work that never placed in any way as an obstacle to fruition by an audience of non-professionals.

The bruschetta with olive oil and sausages were married in the will of the same visitors, as well as the intentions of artists, with the chicken curry and soy sauce. The more the climate created a festive atmosphere of openness and acceptance, the more you could appreciate the effort of the seven chinese artists (that, to tell the truth, have not saved at all in daily devote to the kitchen, to make spending to wash the dishes, to satisfy the curiosity of italian housewifes recipes of their meals …), to create chinese food with typical italian ingredients.

Comunicazione di Cooking performance
"Broadcasting" the event - Photo by Wang Ruo Bing
Assaggio per primo il Pane speziato fritto - Foto di Wang Ruo Bing
I taste some Hum Chin Peng - Photo by Wang Ruo Bing

The food offered for free and ritualised (every day from 18:00 to 20:00) easily obtained the esteem and confidence of local residents, tourists and artisans. Appreciated and sometimes paid back with gifts (as in the case of toffian beekeeper that gave us, including myself, a sample of his delicious honey).

The intercultural comparison work of the artists has never falls into the stereotypes and pointed, as only art can do, subtle differences and deep affinity between the places their roots are and the european fronds of their work.

I conclude with the words that Wang Ruo Bing has written as an introduction to their project:

A contemporary art exhibition in the historical medieval hilltop village of Toffia is not a new phenomenon for most tourists visiting from big cities, neither is it a surprise for local residents who have encountered the “20eventi” in last few years. Nevertheless, this contemporary art exhibition, “Du Jia” (Vacanza/Holiday), by artists from the Chinese diaspora is, indeed, an experimental and controversial attempt in fusing the two rich and enduring civilizations of Chinese and Medieval European culture. Art by Chinese artists has gathered great momentum in recent years, appearing throughout the international art scene since the 1990s, most frequently in the sophisticated big cities such as Roma, Berlin, London and New York.  In this sense, an exhibition of Chinese artists in the remote medieval village of Toffia is worthy of exploration.

Other than myself, no other participating artists had been to Toffia, even though we all had diverse prior contact with Italy such as having visited Venice Biennale. Nevertheless, this is not unusual, as many exhibitions bring artists to a particular region for the first time. But, when the photos of Toffia were shown to the artists at the beginning of the discussion on how to carry out the show, surprisingly the first perception of everyone is the seducement of a holiday. And this: the Vacanza conception of these members of the Chinese diaspora in viewing the medieval village Toffia, somehow, seemed to resonate with the local Italian conception of their own village.

Searching through Internet, it is not difficult to find Toffia described as a charming ancient medieval village, offering tourists not only incredible visual pleasure such as the untouched landscape of rolling hills, olive trees and wine groves, but also spoiling them with locally produced healthy vegetables, oil and delicious Italian cuisine. Only 30 miles north of Rome, Toffia was built on a wedge-shaped spur of rock with an obvious defensive purpose during the medieval period. The extraordinary position at the hilltop also bestows on Toffia a contemporary value. Today Toffia has less purpose as a place of residency than a suburban holiday resort supplying cultural and natural needs for the city dwellers nearby. Nor is this an isolated case: there are many such villages nearby experiencing similar circumstances, for example Farfa and Fara in Sabina.  And this is precisely the reason why the appearance of Toffia struck us collectively a temptingly like a Vacanza, even though we come from various social and political backgrounds.


2 pensieri riguardo “VacanzaProject_Toffia2008

  1. Reading this with great pleasure, many many thanks, Emanuele, for doing this. Although back home for a week now, the time in Toffia, is still as fresh as the newly picked tomato. Our experience with Toffia, with people from Toffia, with visitors from ourside of Toffia has been remarkable and extremely valauble. Vacanza is no longer a strange Italian word for us, but a spirit we hope to continue to explore.


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