Who is this for?/这是给谁的?Who can afford it?/谁付得起?, 2017

paper cut of washi on permanent display at Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development, NYC

paper cut of washi

on permanent display at Association for Neighborhood and Housing Development, NYC

I get off at Canal and walk down Centre Street every Saturday. Once I saw a Chinese elder peering into these windows, not sure of what kind of place it was or when it had changed. The corner of Centre and Howard in Manhattan Chinatown used to have a cafeteria style spot that served affordable, large portions of Chinese American food - five dishes for $5. It was the affordable lunch spot for low wage workers in the area and many non-Chinese people of color. The restaurant closed and this corner of the building was walled under construction until it revealed its fresh subway tiles and tinted windows: Nickel & Diner. This expensive new diner's name seems to be a joke about diners being at one time affordable and working class. Nickel & Diner is housed in one of the kitschiest orientalist buildings in Chinatown straight from the kind of U.S. American imaginary that designated Chinatowns as cheap, dirty, and other.

Photo by Kahean Chang