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Blender by Hidemi Takagi


A couple of weeks ago I had the pleasure of attending the opening of Blender, an art exhibit of the work of New York based Japanese photographer Hidemi Takagi.

Blender is a project several years in the making wherein Hidemi photographs various imported foods that cater to immigrant neighborhoods in NYC. Not only is the project extensive in revealing the variety of nationalities that reside in this city but it also provides a self portrait of sorts of Hidemi herself; something we discussed.

Having both come to live in the United States as adults our tastes and favourite flavours were embedded in heart and mind, but we realised the lengths we have gone to to buy a single grocery product from ‘home’ that has been imported. Often times it comes at a high price, quite literally, but the desire to fill that gastronomic need far exceeds any monetary barrier.

The packaging of almost all the products are vibrant and playful, especially when compared to food packaging from the Western world. For me it created a somewhat fantastical image – making these day to day objects something unique and nostalgic.

But how did a project like Blender come into being? Hidemi was kind enough to answer a few questions:

blender by h takagivibrant packaged foods abound

What was the first item(s) that got this project started?

I don’t remember. But every time when I go to Russian stores, I get so excited. Their packaging are best. Cute. I like cute and retro looking stuff.

blender by h takagiTakagi constructed an old fashioned ice cream cart as an installation piece

How did you decide where to source the foods for the project? Were you
looking for specific items or specific neighbourhoods?

I started from pretty known immigrants neighborhoods like Brighton beach, Flushing, Jackson heights. I don’t really look for specific items or any neighborhoods. I randomly search them by Google. i.e. I google by words like “Haitian Immigrants in NYC”.
I just guessed there should be some immigrants groups existing in NYC. Usually at least a few would show up. Then I go to the areas to learn more about the neighborhood.

blender by h takagiThis candy stand installation piece created by Takagi houses candies, newspapers and foods from all over the world. It looks so authentic Takagi remarked that people had try to stop by the stand to purchase goods!

How many nationalities are represented in this collection?

50, since immigrants groups are limited. i.e. so many Russian, Polish and Chinese neighborhoods exist in NYC but there are no specific Japanese or French or British neighborhoods existing because there are not many immigrants from those Countries in recent yrs. Many of the immigrants I found came to the US for political or economical reasons.

The collection you have is huge, how long did the project take?

I started from around 2005.

Were you encouraged you to try any foods you’d never tried before?

Not from this project. But from my friends who came from different Countries, yes.

What was the most unexpected food you encountered for this project?

I think, I’ve never encountered any unexpected food. I can eat pretty much everything and we, Japanese people eat some weird stuff. So I kind of get used to see something unusual. Usually people ask me if I eat those foods i got for the project. But I don’t. Because I’m not a food critic. At beg, I tried some food and realized that nothing was really delicious since they are not even fresh like some ethnic foods at ethnic restaurants. Especially I grew up in Japan, where people take less sugar and oil. All candies are too sweet for me. A lot of foods are too greasy for me. Some people told me that I should buy “this one which they recommend” than “that one what I bought for the project” because “this one” is more delicious. But I’m attracted to the packaging not for tasting.

blender by h takagiHigh saturated ‘portraits’ of ethnic foods cover the walls of the exhibition space.

Blender will be on show through Jan 24th at The Hudson Guild Gallery (Hudson Guild Elliott Center) 441 West 26th St., NYC. If you are in the area I recommend you check it out.

all images by h takagi except polaroids and ‘blender’ image by cravenmaven


4 Responses

  1. […] View original post here: Blender by Hidemi Takagi « Craven Maven […]

  2. It’s very cool to find a cool hobby/project/concept and just run with it, creating art or something that the public can enjoy. Cool blog. And the artist is right, these foreign packages are so retro looking

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