Iskanje jezika gostoljubnosti / Finding a Language of Hospitality
(International Online Conference )
14. 8. 2020, at 2 p. m.
ACE KIBLA / streamed via Zoom conference

KUD Obrat. Ecological gardening workshop with Boris Fras, May 2011. Photo: Drago Kos

– Merve Bedir,
– Clare Butcher,
– KUD OBRAT (Polonca Lovšin),
– Tanja Lažetić,
– Vidha Saumya.

Moderator: Irena Borić

PROGRAM (PDF) in slo and eng

The starting point of the conference Finding a Language of Hospitality is understanding food systems as the unspoken language that everyone knows, feels, and even tastes. As such, it brings diverse people together, encouraging sharing and hospitality, but at the same time, it also exposes economic disparities. The conference brought together international groups of artists, curators, and architects to unpack their practices tackling social and political implications behind diverse food systems. With the questions: “Can this language influence our perception of hospitality? Can the vocabulary of food be exercised as meta-vocabulary of hospitality? Can such practice contribute to broader change if it steps out of an art institution’s institutional frame?” the conference attempted to create a space for understanding and critical thinking of these issues.

The conference was introduced by Irena Borić after which architect and scholar Merve Bedir gave a lecture Food for Collective Belonging. Within the lecture, Merve Bedir introduced the notions of hospitality and solidarity in relation to migration. Following, she discussed food and the kitchen as a space of “intervals” and metaphore for production and preparing ideas of living together in the city. The talk was based on Mutfak مطبخ Workshop, which was started as a space of sharing and solidarity, by women from Turkey and Syria in Gaziantep (2015). Promoting a space of proximities, collective belonging and decision-making in the city scale, Mutfak مطبخ Workshop also organizes gatherings on women’s issues in Turkey.

Merve Bedir is an architect currently living in Hong Kong. Related to this presentation is her work Vocabulary of Hospitality (2014-ongoing), which brings together research, curating, and making, and highly collaborative in its nature. Vocabulary of Hospitality was an exhibition in Studio X Istanbul (2015), published in After Belonging (2016), The Funambulist (2018) and in preparation as a forthcoming book. Merve is a founding member of Mutfak مطبخ Workshop (Gaziantep) and Center for Spatial Justice (Istanbul).


The following lecture was by artist and poet Vidha Saumya entitled Rice is Nice. Hospitality Recalled in a Grain. Vidha Saumya talked about processes of cooking and eating rice, as sustenance and perusal of the culture that develops through continuous dialogue, while making the analogy of hospitality. The talk urged a celebration of the humble grains of rice to closely understand ingredients and cooking techniques with which we nourish ourselves.

Vidha Saumya is a Helsinki based Artist-Poet whose body of works – Monumental Drawings, Intimate Mark-makings, Murals, Books, Poems, Sculptures, Embroidered Textiles, Food Art, Videos, and Digital Artifacts – are wry and warm in their politics and kaleidoscopic in their aesthetics. The concept of Heimat / (Home)land is at the core of her praxis. She has studied art and art theory in Mumbai, Bengaluru, Lahore and Helsinki and has exhibited across India and North Europe.


The following contribution was a lecture entitled All colors of black-white tastes by artist Tanja Lažetić. She presented her Migrants project. In it she photographed food that came from distant countries and she was surprised that not only exotic fruits and fresh vegetables in the middle of cold winter that definitely had to grow somewhere else, but also most of the food that could be grown somewhere closeby, is produced in countries with cheap labor.

Tanja Lažetić graduated in Architecture from the University of Ljubljana. Her fields of interest include photography, video, ceramic art, performance art, and artists’ books. She has received a number of awards, including the first prize at the Trieste Contemporanea international design competition (1995), the bronze prize at Nanjing Festival, China, the third prize at the International Ceramics Triennial UNICUM (both 2015), and the Rihard Jakopič Recognition (2017). Lažetić has participated in artist residencies in New York, Berlin, London, Israel, Lithuania, Shanghai, Vienna. Lažetić has exhibited her work internationally, including the Neuer Berliner Kunstverein, Berlin; Real Academia de Bellas Artes de San Fernando, Madrid; Museum Brandhorst, Munich; the Art Gallery of Kosovo, Pristina; the PM Gallery and Klovićevi Dvori Gallery, Zagreb; the 25th of May Museum, Belgrade; Brighton Photo Biennial, UK; the Festival of Regions, Austria; and Gagosian Galleries in Paris, Beverly Hills, and NY.


The lecture was followed by contribution by curator Clare Butcher entitled Considering Cooking, Composting, Curriculum. In her lecture she looked into ways of considering cooking and encounters around, and through food, as forms of pedagogy. By posing questions:” What are the recipes which have cooked up the “normal” curricula, institutions and economies we inhabit that can cloud our imaginations of the short and long-term futures of care, education, health, food security? Is it possible to “compost” an empire of leftovers?” she considered the embodied knowledges in the “kitchens of practice”, exchanged through storytelling, muscle memory, and tools.

Clare Butcher is a curator and educator from Zimbabwe who cooks and collaborates as part of her practice. She is currently a Curator for Public Programming and Learning with the Toronto Biennial of Art’s amazing team. Clare is committed to working with institutional, curricular, and archival structures to unlearn their logics and redistribute their resources within other times and bodies. Previously she co-led the program unsettling Rietveld Sandberg, and was aneducation coordinator for documenta 14. Clare has worked with museums, academies and community groups and holds an MFA from the School of Missing Studies, an MA in Curating the Archive from the University of Cape Town, as well as participated in the De Appel Curatorial Program. Some collective and individual endeavours include Men Are Easier to Manage Than Rivers (2015); The Principles of Packing…on two travelling exhibitions (2012) and If A Tree…on the Second Johannesburg Biennale (2012).


The final lecture Beyond a Construction Site, August 2010–present. Community garden and community space was delivered by Polonca Lovšin, a member of KUD Obrat.

In her talk she presented the project Beyond a Construction Site that is celebrating 10 years. In collaboration with neighborhood residents and other interested people, KUD Obrat transformed a long-fenced-off plot of land near Resljeva Street in Ljubljana into a community space intended for gardens, socializing, ecological projects, education and culture. In this way, they are realizing the goal of the project, which is to examine and show the potential of degraded urban areas and the possibility of their receiving new value through temporary community-based interventions. The project is a testing and learning field for spatial practices, spatial politics and imaginations as well possibilities for doing and being together.

Polonca Lovšin (1970) is an architect and artist based in Ljubljana. In 2015 she completed her Ph.D. of visual arts with focus on artistic research at Bauhaus University, Weimar, Germany. In her work she looks for self-organised initiatives and searches for alternative ways of living and working in the perspective of climate change. Beside her own practice she works within the association Kud Obrat (Stefan Doepner, Urška Jurman, Polonca Lovšin, Apolonija Šušteršič), association of artist, architects and cultural workers. Their activities focus on politics of public space, research and encouragement of temporary use of space, self-organisation and idea of commoning. Well known project that they initiated in Ljubljana is a community garden Beyond a Construction Site (2010-present).


The conference was concluded through the dialogue among participants and audience members.

The conference is part of the Risk Change (2016—2020) project co-financed by the Creative Europe program of the European Union and Ministry of Public Administration of RS.