Once categorized as a "melting pot", the United States has in recent years seen the rise of a competing analogy: "the salad bowl", a mix of ingredients and toppings that don't so much as melt together as mix for a blend of distinct flavors.
A new exhibition in Vermont attempts to demonstrate the same principle, as applied to a particularly Chinese parallel: the communal hot pot.
For more than a millennium, Chinese have gathered around the pot of broth which cooks meat, vegetables and other ingredients - no dish exactly the same.
Hot Pot: A Taste of Contemporary Chinese Art, running through June 23 at the Brattleboro Museum and Art Center, showcases 20 notable contemporary artists including Zhang Dali, Cui Xiuwen, Li Hong-bo, Lin Tianmiao, Hai Bo and Huang Yan.
Like the traditional dish, the exhibition attempts to showcase a range of elements that in this case includes painting, photography, video, metalwork and sculpture from across China's contemporary art scene.
"In a hot pot you might throw in chicken and snow peas and a little bit of everything, but you will still get the crunch of this vegetable and the tenderness of that meat - with a beautifully melded broth," says the museum's chief curator Mara Williams. "A hot pot in Chongqing will vary from a hot pot in Beijing, and this is only one hot pot, with a multitudinous gathering of spices and herbs.
"At BMAC we have always tried to produce shows and programs that explore the biggest ideas and art of our time. China is a huge idea of our time, one that impacts us as a country and as individuals in interesting ways. Artists in China have an awful lot to say about our world, their world and the global world."
The variety of Chinese artists included in the exhibition makes it particularly noteworthy, says Eli Klein, proprietor of a gallery in New York which specializes in Chinese contemporary art. Klein assisted in coordinating logistics with many of the artists on display.
"There aren't too many places in the US where you can walk into a museum or gallery and get such a wide-ranging idea or feeling of the contemporary Chinese art scene, and (BMAC) has been able to achieve that with this exhibition," Klein says.
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