The question “Have you eaten yet?” is a common salutation among various Asian populations as well as a greeting when initiating conversation, communication, and interaction. In an age of material scarcity, asking someone if they’d eaten was a projection of one’s own state of being and thus conveyed caring and good will, as if saying, “I hope you are not enduring hunger and have had a meal.”
Rooted in a humanist perspective, “have you eaten yet?” further contains Asian values of pragmatism. Hunger signifies the need to eat, and many Asians, whose self-expression is restrained and subtle, are not afraid to exemplify the guiding principle of survival that “the people live for food” and to extend that concept into their daily lives as a customary phrase of communication. Thus the rhetorical question, “have you eaten yet?” represents an approach to communication that encompasses humanity’s physical instincts and Asians’ living conditions. Reflecting a “self-awareness” and thinking, at the same time it evokes a Golden Rule (putting oneself in the place of others) condition of sharing and communication values.
The pursuit of a full belly is an innate instinct, for when we have not eaten our fill we feel the hunger of being hollow inside. In turn, the instinctual reaction towards that empty, wanting feeling causes us to honestly face our real needs and look for ways to resolve the situation. Nevertheless, “satiation” is subjective, not objective. Increasingly wealthy Asians now no longer need to worry about not filling their bellies, yet plenty of food at each meal still cannot be directly equated with satisfaction. Sweeping globalization and remarkable economic development continue to bring about change in Asia. External changes constantly tug at internal equilibrium. Thus the existential state of which an Asia undergoing transformation must continuously be made aware of and monitor is best stated by the phrase “have you eaten yet?”
Every individual seeks satiation in different ways, each of which is informed and colored by different cultural outlooks, approaches to life, value systems, and top-down global consumer culture. “Have you eaten yet?” as an exhibition theme leads us to an awareness of states of the physical, spiritual, psychological, and desire. The clashing and interplay between the self-reflection, self-awareness, communication, open response, and varying interpretations set off by the question “have you eaten yet?” both flip around and extend the connotations of the original context, offering Asians – whether posing or answering the question – a point from which to probe, observe, or analyze contemporary Asian phenomena from their own perspective.
Have you eaten yet? – 2007 Asian Art Biennial will feature 38 artists or art-groups from the Asia-Pacific as well as European regions to present a total of 76 sets of artwork. A healthy number of documentaries are also included in this exhibition to serve the purpose of comparison between cultures. These artworks can be seen to represent the variety of ways in which Asian artists from their respective social-cultural backgrounds perceive, articulate, and respond to the theme “Have you eaten yet” and its variations. They also demonstrate the capacity of art to further inspire the spirit and poetics of ‘self-awareness’ and ‘sharing’ in our societies. Ultimately, we hope that this exhibition will provide us with great opportunities for open discussion on the developments of Asian contemporary arts.