The monolithic sculpture building located at 36 Edgewood Ave. is not only home to Yale’s most tactile of art students, but also its most secretive (and unofficial) dining destination. The blaring red neon sign atop the fourth story window of Kit Yi Wong’s ART ’12 sculpture studio reads “Kityi Authentic Chinese Food / Free Sunday / (415)-695,” and is adorned with a red bowl logo she found in a Google image search of “cheesy Chinese restaurant signs.” It’s quite a spectacle, and an equally intriguing offer.
When Wong first chose the corner studio of the fourth floor sculpture space, her peers chided her for her apparent lack of foresight. The corner studios have only one workable wall, a comparative spatial disadvantage to the dozens of other more desirable workspaces. But Wong was no fool. She saw below the surface.
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“The space is problematic because it only has one wall, and it’s at the corner of the building,” said Wong. “But the corner is the first place to receive energy from the outside world. It’s the most vulnerable space in the room. It’s unprotected.”
Wong derives this perception from her Chinese roots. A native of Hong Kong, Wong is a first year MFA candidate at the School of Art where she studies conceptual art and sculpture. She says she is interested in how the body occupies space between cultures. She is obsessed with encountering the mysterious and the unknown. For Wong, finding the energy was never a problem, effectively harnessing it to fuel her sculptural endeavors was another matter entirely.
“If you are strong and have strong energy, you will be able to receive the energy effectively. If you are weak, it may overwhelm you,” added Wong.
For two consecutive weeks Wong scoured Manhattan’s China Town district in hopes of finding a suitable Fung Shui master to help her transform her artistic space and channel its energy. Rather than take the conventional route to ancient Chinese mysticism and type “Feng Shui master” into Google, Wong chose to hit the streets and speak with any old wise man or woman she could find. Word of mouth would lead her to the most capable Feng Shui master, she thought.
Eventually she found Mr. Ye, and after a brief consultation, invited him to her New Haven studio to pose the question: “How can I use this space to become a better artist? To make better work?”
In addition to identifying the back corner of her space as “the corner of death,” prophesizing that Wong will find fame and fortune at age thirty-one and identifying her spirit element as fire, Mr. Ye imparted a final morsel of wisdom — “The more people, the better. Any space must draw crowds to make fortune.”
Enter, “Kityi Authentic Chinese Food / Free Sunday / (415)-695.”
Since then, Wong has offered free authentic Chinese food on Sunday nights to any inquirers, but only in groups of fours, sixes, sevens, or eights (three represents the spreading of gossip and five the formation of cliques). All she asks in return is something red, something that may bring her luck.
As I climbed the four stories to meet Wong and my dining companions, an elegantly set table awaited and the smell of tea, dumplings and pork-vegetable lettuce wraps wafted through the hallways. Besides the reawakening of my taste buds by the home-cooked meal, the most enjoyable part of the evening was undoubtedly the conversation; rubbing elbows with a Zimbabwean graphic designer, an Ecuadorian sculptor, an MFA student of directing, and Wong was a titillating if not a multicultural affair. We found common ground in a deep discussion of Hammurabi’s Code.
“Luck is about an energy exchange,” said Wong. “A good, slow cooked meal will give you energy going into the coming week.”
Wong downplayed the performance art of the evening, and was, of course, a modest host.
“It’s essentially just an excuse to meet strangers and have a good time, have good conversation,” she said. “There are very few Asians in the Art School and I want to learn more about American culture. I’m always happy to meet undergrads.”
So far no one has exploited this abounding Xenia, but Wong does receive regular phone calls for delivery.
“If I fail as an artist, maybe I’ll start a Chinese takeout restaurant,” she joked.
There very well may be a niche for Chinese food performance art. Taking New Haven by storm, one dumpling at a time.