TMS Features —

Advanced Dining

An event by The Picnic and Telok Ayer Arts Club

Advanced Dining is a bespoke dining experience that wants you to examine how you experience food—and life, for that matter. Taking a fresh and experimental perspective, The Picnic, a duo consisting of artists Aiwei Foo and Wangxian Tan, put on multiple hats for this project (artist, seamster, chef) to set up this event in collaboration with Telok Ayer Arts Club. It traces the fascinating relationship between humans and food, and is the perfect vehicle for contemplating the otherwise easily overlooked act of eating.

It’s Time To Rethink Food Conventions

By providing a space for a dining experience that subverts the deeply ingrained social and cultural norms we have grown used to, the audience of Advanced Dining can look forward to an unconventional dinner that is at once solitary yet communal. Participants can expect to be seated around a table in a setting swathed with bespoke white curtains and light—but the aesthetic and sensorial aspect is just one of the many layers to the experience. Through the innovative and artful meals created in collaboration with Telok Ayer Arts Club’s head chef Bertram Leong, the event has been set up to nudge its diners to rethink the conventions we have surrounding food; by playing with the way food looks and is eaten, the artists are able to evoke a ripple of unsettling effects, which, in turn, reveals and challenges habits of ‘norm’ that we have grown accustomed to practising around food and dining.

The Picnic likens the experience of Advanced Dining to be an “odyssey to explore the unknown territory,” elaborating that it is one’s participation and involvement which will define the experience. Such is the open-endedness of Advanced Dining: there is no set destination or take away that it hopes for its diners to collectively arrive at. Instead, it sees itself as a catalyst; an environment with a set of defined conditions that eschews the restricting norms and societal constructs that are tied to the act of eating. The result is neatly summarised in the words by the artist duo, where the experience will be “a short retreat within oneself.”

As with food, art, and life: the possibilities are endless. Venture forth.


Read on for our feature on The Picnic

Can you share with us the process of your planning for this exhibition?

This project has involved areas of different disciplines, so we are juggling between the roles as an artist, sometimes chef, seamstress and other miscellaneous roles. Compared to the previous projects we have done, Advanced Dining has different layers of complexity. Besides the concerns over aesthetic, (sensory) taste, we are also putting in a lot of emphasis and thought into human relationships within social conventions. This process is not within our control but we are providing the “conditions” during the dining session as a catalyst for interactions to take place, hopefully… Maybe it sounds a bit weird to put it this way, but Advanced Dining is unlike a work that can be explained to be understood. You need to be a part of it in order to find meaning based on your involvement.

The Picnic’s interest in tea shows through very clearly in its body of work, such as seen in “Transit Tearoom”. In Advanced Dining, there is a clear intention for the participants to practice mindfulness and be present in the moment. Could you elaborate more on how the practice of enjoying a cup of tea might have further inspired and informed the conceptualisation of Advanced Dining?

It takes time to do everything. Having a cup of tea to us is like a solo trip on a long distance train ride - you can’t make the train go faster even if you are rushing, so let’s just ride with the speed of the train and enjoy the view. It is a trip we learn to be with ourselves in that very moment. In contrary, Advanced Dining is more like [being] aware that we are in the same train with others. Out of so many people, we end up in the same train - that is not really coincidental.

To be immersed in a present, reflective state can be seen as a reversion to your most natural self. Advanced Dining, however, seems to take a "futuristic approach" to dining. There’s some juxtaposition here, and this exploration of duality seems to be a common theme with your work, as even with Advanced Dining, the experience is described to be a “solitary yet communal” one. What is it about this idea of dualism that draws you in?

Dualism could be seen as a recurring subject matter in our work. Even though it is not intentional, we believe that things have two sides. In fact, Advanced Dining in our context is not exactly futuristic in a sci-fi way but we would probably describe it as an odyssey to explore the unknown territory in our social behaviour. "Good and evil are the opposite sides of the same coin; leave the evil, leave the good, toss away the coin."

Biggest takeaway for participants?

A short retreat within oneself.

Advanced Dining will run over only 3 weekends, on 13, 20, 27 July 2019, with 15 seats a session. Tickets can be purchased here.

Telok Ayer Arts Club
2 McCallum St
Singapore 069043


The Picnic (路邊野餐) is an artist studio that curates experiential gesture to contemplate and counter balance the urban hustles.

Comprising Aiwei Foo and Wangxian Tan, both multi-disciplinary artists, The Picnic often works with the integration of art into experience. They believe in the blurring of art and life.