Tuesday, May 15, 2007

EE Berger

Image Info: One of many images from a series documenting the chinese restaurant and the false facade that is presented in a means to provide the average American with an "authentic" experience. website


Anonymous EE Berger said...

you can also find me at eebergerphoto.com

11:42 AM  
Anonymous just curious said...

Are you China, or have you been to China? I haven't. Are their restaurants really not like ours?

3:43 PM  
Anonymous just curious said...

I mean "Are you Chinese"?

3:44 PM  
Anonymous ee berger said...

I am not Chinese. I simply find this presentation of what is "Asian" to the American public to have an interesting falseness behind it. I have a great interest in Asian culture and from what I see, their restaurants don't have to try so hard to convince their public of their authenticity like the Chinese restaurants here do. Many restaurants here seem so helplessly over the top. It would be like an American restaurant in China being plastered with cheeseburgers, baseballs and the statue of liberty everywhere in the same way the Chinese restaurant is plastered with bamboo, lanterns and jade buddha statues. Of course I may be wrong, however, if as an American consumer I can recognize a certain falsity within the location, I assume that other people can as well.

In addition, whether the restaurants in China are identical or completely opposite, the decor in the American restaurants is still an attempt to provide an authentic and exotic experience to middle class Americans, an activity that I find to be interesting.

4:29 PM  
Anonymous curtis said...

I don't think Chinese restaurants are attempting authenticity as Chinese any more. The Chinese restaurant in America has adopted it's current aesthetic it has from this Orientalism but by this point it has fully adopted it as the-style-of-a-Chinese-restaurant-in-America. There is a spot not far from my house that identifies itself as New York style Chinese.

12:53 PM  
Anonymous curtis said...

Ooh. Should have read over that one before posting it. Ugly.

12:55 PM  
Anonymous ee berger said...

Curtis, I guess I'm a little confused. Do you side with the viewpoint that Chinese restaurants are authentically Asian or that they have become fully "Americanized" in their decor, theme, etc....?

4:54 PM  
Anonymous nolan simon said...

ee -- My take on what Curtis is saying is that, out of the tradition of western fascination with asia (orientalism), these spaces have developed their own isolated and reflexive language. A third possibility arises; that the language is neither authentically asian or authentically "americanized asian" but a self-contained and self-sustaining hybrid. The decor mimics the orientalist aesthetic (a primarily high class venture relying on importing relics to itself mimic emperors' homes and temples -- Queen Elizabeth I notably started the lapdog craze after receiving a "lion dog" bred exclusively for the chinese emperor) and by in turn emulating a mimicry becomes something else entirely. As Curtis noted, much of the look of Chinese resturants developed in New York's Chinatown by Chinese immagrants.

11:52 AM  
Anonymous nolan simon said...

Queen Elizabeth I = Queen Victoria


2:08 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

god nolan, why are you speaking for others, and don't you ever shut up? blah, blah, blah

5:26 PM  
Anonymous m. said...

It would be like an American restaurant in China being plastered with cheeseburgers, baseballs and the statue of liberty everywhere"

So, they'd be like Red Robins'?

I also think it's important to make some differentiation. Not ALL chinese restaurants ahdere to this aesthetic, and also regionally they don't. here in Seattle where there is a huge asian population and also a premium on restaurants there are a number of georgeously designed restaurants which are very minimalist, feng shui, style, etc. They are some of my favorite places to go at lunch b/c the decor alone makes it such a pleasant experience.

There are, of course, also tacky chinese restaurants. I think that any restaurant that trades solely on it's ethnicity for commodification reasons tends to move toward tacky as an extension of the gimmick. There are a lot of thai restaurants out here that are guilty of some of the most horrendous decore. Far more tacky than the chinese restaurants.

bad spelling. i am once again jet-lagged. please forgive.

1:58 PM  
Anonymous ee berger said...

Well, I suppose coming from Detroit offers me a much different perspective. I have yet to be in a well-designed, decorated and styled Chinese restaurant. Japanese, yes, Chinese, no. I'm not sure if you're a Detroit native or just visiting the blog from Seattle, but the working class roots of this city spread to everything- including the limited cultural scope of restaurants. Of course, with everything, there are exceptions. We obviously have our better places to eat, and we have a thriving cultural scene. However the working-class nature of the city has effected the people born, raised, working and living in the city.

One of the unfortunate things about seeing only one of these images is that if offers a fairly narrow view of the entire project I worked on- a survey of common middle class places. Overall, the project was a documentary on the general decor of the chinese restaurants in middle-class towns. I stand by my belief in the fact that in these areas, the Chinese restaurants are generally a stab at creating the "authentic" experience to their working-class customers.

4:59 PM  
Anonymous m. said...

ee, I spent the last 8 years in Detroit/MI, including 2 years at CCS, and before that NY so I just wanted to point out that there's a wide range of dissimilarities that one might want to be aware of when discussing stereotypes of any kind.

I remember the MI chinease restaurants, my favorite being a hole in the wall in wixom called Bon Kai. The best sweet&sour chicken ever. Oh, and then there's that thai place over near Eastern market and now... I'm hungry. Can't wait to move back in Aug! Oh, and don't forget the Bubble Tea phenomona in AnnArbor, which is distinctly adjacent to the type of restaurants you mention. Mmm.

7:24 PM  
Anonymous just curious said...

Yeah, it feels like you're exploiting cultures which you are (presumably, maybe you are) not, all based off of an observation that to me appears to ignore the fact that the average owner of a chinese restaurant (for instance) is chinese, and in being chinese would be more apt to decorate their institution like what they're used to.

Call this next comment bold, but americans tend to see the world as something that revolves around themselves. Here, you appear to be making the assumption that chinese restaurants (and other cultures' restaurants) are upholding a a "home-like" appearance for your (presumably american)amusement or similarly, your experience, which I can imagine is true sometimes, but who knows for sure other than someone whose actually been to china, right?

It's your observation, I get it-

2:32 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

So Nolan has a pseudonym?

...where's the sarcasm button on this keyboard?...

6:42 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i thought mike smith already did this with a vacuum cleaner and dirty clothes.

6:43 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

what the fuck is this ?
really pls let me know

6:44 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i predict that there will be a ton of defense for this work in a minute, you know, like the point is to create a conversation and how can it be so bad if there's so much talk about it . does this all sound familiar?


6:46 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i'd rather watch paint dry than look at this stupid photo

6:47 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

A lot of negative has already been said, so............. what and why, and.............. is this really what resulted from four years of art school???



6:48 PM  

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